Thursday, September 3, 2009

Manhattan, 400 Years Apart

Aerial view of Midtown Manhattan as it might have looked in 1609
Wow, I just checked out the Mannahatta Project -- an interactive mapping site that shows what the island of Manhattan was like in 1609, overlaid on what it's like today.

The same aerial view partially overlaid with today's street grid
Each viewable area has an incredible database about the past (topography, plants and animals that were there, uses the Lenape people may have put the land to) and the present (detailed maps of what's on each city block). Reading the plant list for just one block gives an immediate impression of the great biodiversity that existed.

The same aerial view from a satellite
There's a slider at the bottom of the map that allows you to show more or less of 1609 or today, and the popup balloons link you to information on the past or present -- or to a way to donate to the Wildlife Conservation Society as a sponsor for that block.

The map page makes a point of noting:

The goal of the Mannahatta Project has never been to return Manhattan to its primeval state. The goal of the project is discover something new about a place we all know so well, whether we live in New York or see it on television, and, through that discovery, to alter our way of life. New York does not lack for dystopian visions of the future…. But what is the vision of the future that works? Might it lie in Mannahatta, the green heart of New York, and with a new start to history, a few hours before Hudson arrived that sunny afternoon four hundred years ago?

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