Plan Philly has an article about the joint effort of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, and the Preservation Design Partnership’s trip to Frankford to test out their ability to match up old atlases with current surveying techniques to better document Philadelphia’s rich historical architecture with more efficiency. To quote the article:
A joint effort of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, and the Preservation Design Partnership is utilizing 19th century atlases and other period maps, GIS mapping, and digital technology in a unique experiment. The result may reveal the archaelogical layers of the city’s history from its early years to its current age.
That’s a mouthful. But apparently it comes down to the fact that it’s very time intensive to track down all the old stuff in historic areas. So the researchers are trying to match up old atlases with current mapping techniques and trying to guess which areas of a neighborhood have a high likelihood of having historic stuff. Sounds kinda vague, but lets take the example of the area near Frankford’s border with Bridesburg, you look on an old map and see the Frankford Creek running up along what’s now Aramingo, you know you don’t have to wonder around Frankford Valley looking for old stuff cause they only filled in the creek recently. You look at the houses that used be where I95 is now, you know you’re probably not going to get anything historic around where the city bulldozed 50 years ago. But it also works for where you might find something. Take Leiper Street around Overington Park. If you compare old maps with the current surveys, you can see that some of the lot sizes for the estates are the same, meaning the houses are probably still there. And go figure, they actually came upon this week’s home of the week!
We actually played this very game on the message board a little while ago when we were trying to figure out where the Overington Estate house sat in the park.
You can play along too, a while ago we profiled philageohistory.org, a website that will overlay google maps with old atlases they have of Philadelphia, and Frankford is heavily included. Check out the 1929 Ward 23 map. And if you find anything neat, let us know!