Cartographical Fantastication

In any of my many urban explorations and travels over my native city I’m that guy: the one who always stops and marvels upon discovery of a broken patch of asphalt that reveals a strata of brick roadway beneath it. The one who sees a bit of exposed trolley car track and sighs. I ride Angel’s Flight with my eyes closed. I stand at Los Angeles Plaza looking across the street and back through time when instead of a parking lot and freeway onramp stood a literal den of inequity and ill repute in the form of an alleyway called Calle de los Negros.

As a reveler in what lies beneath and a craver of historical context, all I had to do was see the cover and read the title of the new book by Glen Creason — the map librarian for the LA Public Library — and my response was Pavlovian. Seriously: one moment last month I was flipping through the current issue of Los Angeles magazine and there it was. Next thing I knew I was on Amazon pre-ordering it. I may or may not have been drooling.

Los Angeles in Maps, published by Rizzoli, arrived yesterday — all glorious 192 maptastic pages of it beginning with what’s believed to be the first published rendering of the area (1853) all the way up to a 2010 LA Times neighborhoods map.

I’ll spare you the OMG as you’ve either already clicked off to go get your own, or such awesomeness is just not as awesome to you as, say, free tix to Mudjunkeez at Spaceland or That Is Not Them That Is Us at Echoplex. But if you’re still here and need more input, allow me to direct you to LA Creek Freak, CicLAvia co-organizer and all-around incredible dude Joe Linton (a contributor to the book), who wrote about it here.

As an aside, the Library Foundation is hosting “Los Angeles in Maps: A Multimedia Journey” at the Central Library’s Mark Taper Auditorium October 28, featuring Creason and author D.J. Waldie. It’s probably standing room only and they’re not accepting any additional reservations online, but I’ll be damned if that’s going to stop me from trying to get in.

5 Replies to “Cartographical Fantastication”

  1. Professional cartographer/geographer here. Thanks for sharing! I had no idea this book was out there.

    As a wee lad, on long road trips, my parents would hand me a Thomas Brothers map book to get me to shut up. I’d spent hours tracing roads back and forth to see where they went. This was one of the things that led me to becoming a professional map maker.

    I love pour over old maps, to see what was, and comparing it to what it became. This looks like it’s getting added to my Christmas list.

  2. Evan, in particular there are Sanborn maps detailing Central Avenue and the location of the long lost Wrigley Field. The latter literally choked me up because recently I attempted to pinpoint the field’s home plate from historic aerials images and GoogleMap satellite views. In the Sanborn map featured in the book you can practically see exactly where homeplate was.

  3. Cool! Though nothing is as cool as looking through the actual giant Sanborn maps and seeing the squares of paper that were taped on top of the pages to keep them up-to-date.

  4. I just got my copy of this book a couple of days ago. It’s got a lot of interesting stuff.

    I confess, though, as a Map Nerd, I find some of these kind of frustrating, because, even in an oversize book, some of them are simply too small to read. I guess I’m just going to have to go spend some more time in the LAPL map room. :-)

    Oh, and Will- you’re not the only one: here is the pic my partner took of a patch of brick paving I spotted that had been exposed by the heavy trucks wearing away the asphalt on Commercial St. just east of Alameda during the construction of the Gold Line Extension overpass over the 101.

    (Commercial Street is the street that intersected Alameda right where the terminal depot of LA’s very first steam train, the Los Angeles and San Pedro, was located. There’s a good chance it was one of LA’s first paved streets, reinforced to handle the heavy drays carrying cargo offloaded from the train to the businesses that gave the street its name.)

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