Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Zoomable 1868 Beers Map Overlay

First of all, at the risk of disappointing anyone who misread the title the same way I did an email subject line, this post is not about Zombie Beers. For better or worse, it's just not. What it's actually about is a cool new tool, made specifically for us, by the creator of one of my other favorite resources. If you've had the ... we'll say "pleasure" ... OK, "experience"... of reading a few posts on this blog, you've no doubt seen me reference the 1849 Rea & Price Map of New Castle County. Originally, like several of the other maps, I could only find little bits and pieces of the Rea & Price map. Eventually, to my great delight, I came across a complete, color, high-quality, zoomable version of the map.

This high-quality, zoomable (meaning you can zoom in and out) version was created by Jim Meeks, and hosted at his website -- New Castle Community History and Archaeology Program (NC-CHAP). This is a fantastic website devoted to the history of the town of New Castle, the oldest town in the county named for it. Well, Jim's at it again. This time he's taken on my other favorite map, and he's made an awesome version of it specially for us.

The map in question this time is the 1868 Beers Map -- it's the one in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Like the other maps, the Beers Map is an invaluable tool for helping to find who lived where at the time of its creation, as well as fixing the locations of the roads they used to get around. After you've studied the map long enough, you get to know which roads are which, and you should have a decent idea where things are on the map in relation to the present-day set-up of the area. For instance, if you're looking at the Beers Map and are interested in a particular house on it, you may or may not be able to get a feel for where that might be "in real life". Jim's newest creation has just made it much easier for everyone to flip between 1868 and 2012 (cartographically speaking).

What he's done is to take the Beers Map and overlay upon it a current map (including tax parcels -- ie., properties). You can find this amazing tool here. If you've used the zoomable 1849 map, the format should be familiar. At the largest scales, only the 1868 map is visible. As you zoom in (about 1/3 of the way), the modern roads and parcels come into view. Rather than trying to guess or estimate where you are on the old map (as we used to have to do), this map makes it much, much easier to match up historic locations with modern ones -- even if you're not that familiar with the area or with the old maps.

There are a few caveats, though. As great a job as Jim did with the overlay, and as good as the maps were that he had to work with, not everything lines up perfectly. Mostly, that's a result of the cartographical quality of the 1868 map. While it's pretty good, it's certainly not GPS accurate. There are some roads and houses that are close to where they should be, but just not exactly. In some cases, though, the difference in road placement is simply a matter of realignments that were done, mostly in the transition into the Automobile Age. As long as you don't get bogged down in trying to place things down to the foot, it's a tremendous help. I think it's especially helpful for things further off of the main roads. That's usually when it gets hard to keep track of where you are.

So go and try it out. Just make sure you don't have anything important to do for a while (or maybe that's just me). And while you're there, check out the rest of the NC-CHAP site, too. There's a lot of cool New Castle-related history there -- a lot! Like how New Castle could have been renovated like Williamsburg. Or 19th Century Stereographs (early 3-D pictures) of the town. Or the Dike Uprising of 1675, mentioned on this blog in a post about the origins of the name "Pike Creek". It's easy to spend a ridiculous amount of time poking around all the stuff there.

So on behalf of everyone (yeah, I get to do that -- it's my site), I want to thank Jim Meeks for making another excellent tool for exploring the past. Thanks, Jim!!!


  1. Scott and Jim,

    Thanks a lot for a great addition to an already super website (both).

    Dave O

  2. Definitely cool. A great tool to better understand historical properties and events.

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  4. "First of all, at the risk of disappointing anyone who misread the title the same way I did an email subject line, this post is not about Zombie Beers. "

    You have to admit, a Mill Creek hundred zombie map would be very cool too. I know I would check it out, zoomable or not.