Greater Greater Washington

History


Old survey maps show Georgetown around 1903

The Library of Congress has a fascinating resource called "Researching Historic Washington, DC Buildings," which includes dozens of links to databases and collections with reams of information on old DC buildings.

One collection is a digitized version of Baist's Real Estate Atlas of Surveys for Washin­gton, DC. It's a highly detailed map of every street and building in the city in 1903.

Here are the maps for Georgetown:

Here's southeast Georgetown. Note the wooden bridge for K St. across Rock Creek, the factories and lumber yards on the water, and the fact Virginia Ave. used to go across the waterfront.

Here's southwest Georgetown. What's notable about this map is the streams that ran through Georgetown at this point, as represented by the black lines meandering through the neighborhood.

Here's northeast Georgetown. Notice that Q St. wasn't constructed yet, and Dumbarton House hadn't been moved yet. Plus, there was a giant streetcar facility on P St. (not to mention homes in what is now Rose Park).

Here's central Georgetown. What's notable here is that, as I discovered Monday, the addresses of homes north of Volta were different. And that's because Volta Place was Q St., Q St. was R St., Dent Place west of Wisconsin was S St. (east of Wisconsin it was Irving Place), Reservoir was T St. and R St. was U St. Oh and Wisconsin was called 32nd St. and 32nd St. was called Valley St.

Finally, here's northwest Georgetown. Note that Volta Park used to be the Presbyterian Burial Grounds, and that the weird Tudor style home on 33rd between Volta and Q was the Presbyterian church.

Topher Mathews has lived in the DC area since 1999. He created the Georgetown Metropolitan in 2008 to report on news and events for the neighborhood and to advocate for changes that will enhance its urban form and function. A native of Wilton, CT, he lives with his wife and new daughter in Georgetown.  

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Just wanted to clarify that this collection has maps of the whole city, not just Georgetown. Click through to the LOC to access them. The city is broken up into three volumes. Click each one and look at the first page of each to see the reference map. Use that reference map to identify which plate you need to open. Once you open the right plate, you can use the LOC's viewer to zoom in, but it's somewhat cumbersome. It's better to just download the file. Keep in mind though that the files they use are JPG2000, which aren't viewable by all picture programs. QuickTime and Photoshop both work though.

Anyway, they're awesome maps so definitely explore them.

by Topher Mathews on Feb 29, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

Just to piggyback, I pulled them together a few years ago for Near Southeast, by plat and by year (1903, 1909, 1915, 1921):

http://www.jdland.com/dc/historic-maps.cfm

by JD on Feb 29, 2012 2:42 pm • linkreport

Washingtoniana Division at the MLK Library has hard copies going back to 1880s.

by John Muller on Feb 29, 2012 9:03 pm • linkreport

great post! now if only I can figure out how to view the maps in the links in an easier way than I'm experiencing by using the built in tool. I thought I'd found it when I saw 'download larger file' ... but it turns out you need a special application to read it!

by Lance on Feb 29, 2012 10:02 pm • linkreport

Lance - check out irfanview, it les you convert the jp2 files that the loc uses to any other format. Free software that has worked very well for me.

by Mecki on Mar 1, 2012 7:34 am • linkreport

Thanks for the tip. For 40 years I've been trudging to MLK and struggling with the hard bound copies and film. Nice to know LOC has some digitized ones.

Not sure she's still there but Dorothy Provine at National Archives was always the go-to for "impossible to find" items so NA also has a large collection of plats and records.

The early Blaists are especially important because a fire in the 1870's destroyed most city records prior to that and the insurance maps are the best way to glean information on what was there prior.

Blaists (and other company maps) were done for insurance underwriters so they show extreme detail as to dimensions, construction materials, building use, and where what size water lines were.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 1, 2012 8:28 am • linkreport

Check out this site, too for historic aerial photography: http://www.historicaerials.com/. Just type in an address in the search field, and you're presented with a choice of historic images from the air. Zoom in and out, move around just like in Google or Bing maps.

(I have no affiliation with the site ... just a fan of it).

by JB on Mar 6, 2012 4:44 pm • linkreport

Hopkins 1887 atlas is the first.
Later Baist 3 then 4 volumes covered the whole city.
Details here: http://www.h-net.org/~dclist/neighNew4.pdf
or
come to a workshop: http://www.culturecapital.com/event.php?id=28227 - 3 dates.

PS Coumanis's fire is fiction/myth, no such thing.
PPS Dorothy Provine retired long ago.

by MBG on Dec 2, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

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