Friday, May 22, 2020

The Street Age Map

Mamaroneck Village in Westchester County, New York was incorporated in 1895. The village first developed as a small farming community on both sides of the Mamaroneck River. The two built areas on both sides of the river were joined into one commercial village in the 1890's. The population of Mamaroneck village in 1895 was 1,500. Over the last 125 years the population of Mamarneck has grown in size and is now approaching 20,000. Over that same period the village has expanded to accommodate that ever growing population.

You can see how Mamoroneck Village has developed over the last 150 years on How Mamaroneck Village NY Grew. This interactive map colors the village's streets by the year of their construction. Michael Meaney created the map by scouring vintage maps of Mamoroneck to determine when the village's streets were first constructed. If you select a street on the map you can see the street's name, when it first appeared on a village map and an estimation of when the street was built.

I am big fan of building age maps, which I think often provide a fascinating insight into how towns and cities have developed over time. One problem with building age maps is that in older cities they only show the oldest buildings, which are still standing. They can present a distorted picture of historical development because they don't show where newer buildings have been built on top of demolished older building footprints.

By mapping street ages instead of (or alongside) building ages you largely overcome this problem. Obviously old streets can be demolished and a complete new street pattern can be developed in its place. However I suspect that this is much less common than a more organic development of cities where the street layout stays the same but where older buildings are gradually replaced over time. Therefore a street age map, such as How Mamaroneck Village NY Grew, in most cases will usually provide a pretty accurate picture of how a town or city has developed over time.

Of course building a street age map of a larger city will take a lot of work. A lot of work that Myles Zhang out in to create this animation of the evolution of New York.

Myles Zhang's The New York City Evolution Animation was created by analyzing hundreds of vintage maps of New York City. The data extracted from these vintage maps was then used to create cartographic snapshots of NYC for every 20-30 years. As the video progresses you can see how the city started as a small settlement in Manhattan and over a couple of centuries grew into the huge metropolis that it is today.

1 comment:

Garth Henning said...


I've appreciated your kind words about our Running Reality project in the past. We've been trying to do this street-by-street evolution and you are right that it is incredibly hard. For NYC, we have done 1624 to about 1859 with accuracy down to about 1 year increments. We've been working on street map evolutions for a bunch of other cities as well, with some like Rome and Athens being a huge challenge and others like London, Beijing, and Tokyo being more directly evolutionary.,-74.00348&zoom=14

We've been working on early Washington DC and Alexandria and it is amazing the degree to which early maps of even prominent places conflict with each other on street layout and street founding dates.

With thanks,