Wednesday, January 02, 2019

The 1940 Wooden Model of San Francisco


The David Rumsey Map Collection has released an interactive map of a 1940 wooden model of San Francisco. The 1940 WPA San Francisco Model allows you to explore up close the incredible detail in this hand crafted wooden model of the city.

At the end of the 1930's the Work Progress Administration in San Francisco spent three years creating a huge wooden model of the city. The completed model measured 38 x 42 feet and was intended to be used for both planning and educational purposes. The model was unveiled in a lightwell of City Hall in April of 1940. However the model was only briefly on display and was removed shortly after the start of the Second World War.

The 158 pieces of the model have now been reassembled. I understand that the model will be on display in different local libraries around San Francisco throughout this winter but that no permanent display home has yet been found for the model. If you can't track down the model's current location then you can at least now explore this digitized interactive map of the model. You can also learn more about the model at the David Rumsey Map Collection.


San Francisco isn't the only city with a huge historical town model. In the nineteenth century Swiss architect Auguste Magnin created an amazing 3d model of the walled city of Geneva. You can visit the model at the Maison Tavel in Geneva. If you can't get to Geneva then you will need to visit Geneve 1850 instead.

Geneve 1850 is an epic online interactive model of 1850's Geneva. The map allows you to immerse yourself in and explore Geneva as it looked in the mid-nineteenth century. To create this digital model of historic Geneva engineers scanned Magnin's original model in high definition. They were then able to recreate the 2,000 buildings (and their 40,000 windows and 8,000 skylights) in this digital 3D model of the original.


Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany is the world’s largest model railway. Miniatur Wonderland also includes detailed models of a number of German and Austrian towns and even a few famous places in America.

You can actually explore this amazing model for yourself using Google Maps Street View. The Miniatur Wunderland Street View includes a lovely custom designed map which allows you to navigate to the different Street View scenes which have been captured from around this huge model railway.

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