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Dec 5, 2005

Maps As Art: Six Decade Old NY Map Is Displayed

If you are in the New York area, you will want to stop by the Queens Museum of Art. The museum has put on display a remarkable seven piece model of the New York area's watershed as it existed in the mid 1930's.

Even the New York Times was impressed:

Despite its age, the map is an amazing rendering of the watershed. It is painstakingly constructed, with thousands of tiny lights marking the paths of the aqueducts and water mains running from upstate mountains down to the city, and then from borough to borough.

The labels are done in old-fashioned calligraphy, and many of them depict places whose names have changed. On the map, Roosevelt Island is still called Blackwells Island. What is now Liberty Island is labeled as Bedloe Island. In fact, there are many remnants from a New York that is no longer, including a sawtooth coastline of Manhattan, a reminder of a waterfront that once bustled with commerce.

The clear urethane that depicts the water in the reservoirs has grown dull and dusty. Indeed, some of the map's reservoirs no longer exist today, like the one at the current Bryant Park location in Manhattan. Some no longer hold drinking water, like the Central Park Reservoir. Many, however, still function, like the grand Kensico, in Westchester.

The map was originally commissioned for the 1939 World's Fair, but was never displayed. It will be on display until February 12, 2006.