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OASIS / NYPL maps help compare historical lower Manhattan with contemporary street grid

(July 2010)

In partnership with the New York Public Library's Map Division, www.OASISnyc.net now displays digitized historic maps aligned to the city's current street grid. Using OASIS's dynamic transparency tool, you can fade between current property maps (and aerial photos) and maps from the 18th and 19th centuries. Currently we've integrated three maps (two in lower Manhattan, one covering all of Manhattan): the Montresor map from 1775, the Poppleton map from 1817, and the Viele map from 1874.

More maps will be added soon, based on the groundbreaking NYPL "Map Rectifier" project. But as we were working with Map Division staff to incorporate their digitized maps, an amazing find at the World Trade Center construction site prompted us to speed up our work.

Maps and an 18th century find

On July 13, 2010, workers at a portion of the WTC construction site unearthed the remnants of an old ship, what the New York Times City Room described as "a 30-foot length of a wood-hulled vessel" from sometime in the 18th century. The article noted that the ship "was evidently undisturbed more than 200 years."

The construction site is located between Liberty and Cedar streets in lower Manhattan, just south of the WTC site. We've now updated the OASIS website with historical maps from the New York Public Library, to help provide mapped evidence dating the ship and identifing the pier where it may have been docked in the late 1700s.

Fading from 1817 to 1775 (and back again to the present)

Dynamic transparencies peel back the layers

Here's how you can access the maps on OASIS:

  • zoom into the block b/w Liberty and Cedar streets (enter "140 Liberty Street" in the address search) - you may want to zoom out one level to see the property in relation to the surrounding blocks;
  • expand the "Historical Land Use" legend section, and check the box next to the "Montresor map" entry;
  • move the "Poppleton map" entry to the "Transparency Control" box (just click and drag it to the box);
    • use the slider to change the transparency of the Poppleton map. The Montresor map underneath with fade in and out of view. You can see that in 1775 the Liberty/Cedar street block was mainly under water, and also had a pier extending along Cedar Street.
    • by 1817, the Liberty/Cedar street block had been filled in extending to West Street (which had been partly built and was planned further south).
  • you can click on the "Poppleton" or "Montresor" map links to find out more about them, along with a link to the detailed page at NYPL with citation information.

Bird's eye view of the construction site

Click on the Liberty/Cedar Street block, and an orange "camera icon" will appear. Click it to display a bird's eye view of the property (from Bing maps). Use the N/S/E/W icon in the upper left of the bird's eye view to see different perspectives on the area -- if you click W, you'll get a good view of the construction area.

Mannahatta too

Of course, the NYPL maps are not the only historical info available via OASIS. We also have a great partnership with the Mannahatta Project. More on this in a separate post. But in the meantime you can use OASIS to view some amazing map layers created by Mannahatta -- the 1609 shoreline around Manhattan island, ecosystems, a photorealisic image of what the island likely looked like, and you can click on any block for a link to the Mannahatta Project's website with detailed info about the 1609 flora and fauna for that area.

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