Reason # 27 why I heart the Internet:
The maps. Oh, the maps…
Especially the one featured from Washington DC in the 1920s. It’s from a survey done by “G. Wm. Baist, Wm. E., & H.V. Baist, surveyors” and is amazing.
Baist’s Real Estate Atlas – The Best Washington DC 1920s Maps
The featured photo map shows a section of DC north of the Mall–in what’s now know as Penn Quarter, I believe–and is close to Mt. Vernon Square and the Convention Center.
I would highly recommend just checking out the entire four volumes of Baist’s Real Estate Atlas, which is provided by the Library of Congress. (Yet another reason to visit Washington DC, but, alas, when one doesn’t have the money…) I think they even have older versions from the same surveyors, so you can even watch the progression through the years (and how they changed street names constantly–poor Brookland neighborhood!)
The maps show you where sewer lines go (and more importantly, didn’t go…), what the houses and different structures were built out of, the taxes, parks, greenhouses…even where the horse fountains were.
Yes, that’s right. Horse fountains.
Here in Portland, we have the horse rings in the curbs that people tie cute My Little Ponys and Breyer’s horses to, but, for some reason, that doesn’t send me back 100 years like the image on a map of a horse fountain does.
For more fun?
Yes, that’s right. Maps are fun.
Check out the east side of the city with the institute for the deaf and dumb and Camp Meigs. Or the jail and Congressional Cemetery, which are alarmingly close together in all the unpaved roads and swampy goodness that used to be next to the Anacostia–and also near the smallpox hospital, which clearly has its walls pointed out.
Because walls were very important in the days of smallpox.
And check out the west side of the city where the Kennedy Center is now, but where it clearly says “Chris. Heurich Brewing Company” on the map.
Hell, if you really want a rabbit hole to go down, just check out the entire historic Map Collection. Panoramic maps, the National Parks, railroad maps… There’s even an entire section of Civil War maps that completely blew my mind. And the Library of Congress has them all scanned in, all at huge file sizes and resolution so you can zoom in and see everything, and even the potential to download them if you want.