Tuesday, September 29, 2009

400 years of mapping

There’s a great exhibit at the NYPL on 400 years of “Mapping New York’s Shoreline.” It just started and is running until next June. There are some fantastic maps of the region and the city (and not just the little canoe of Manhattan) as it tells the geographic tale of European encounter, exploration, and settlement. Some wonderful stuff. There’s a map of the Hudson set up on the floor because it’s so big.

A couple of things I noticed: on an 1776 London broadside map touting the spanking HM’s troops and those Hessian bastards dealt to the proto-american troops in Brooklyn that August, our terminal moraine is noted as the “wooded heights of Guana,” evidently a variation of Gowanus as transmitted through the fog of the Atlantic. An 1845 US Coast Survey was the second sheet I saw with a “Yellow Hook” south of Red Hook, off Owl’s Point in Bay Ridge. On the same map is “Negro Bar” off what’s now Breezy Point; no commentary necessary, especially if you know Breezy Point.

But what of “Head of the Fly,” noted in a couple of 19th century maps of Queens. It was northwest of Jamaica, evidently a meadow overlooking one of the streams of the swamps.

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