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Feb 7, 2006

Chicago In Maps

Robert A. Holland's lifelong love of cartography has resulted in a collection of beautiful, old maps. Mr. Holland shares his maps in his recently published, "Chicago in Maps: 1612 to 2002." The book traces how Chicago rose from a small, swampy settlement to one of the world's largest cities.

But Mr. Holland told that he wanted to do more with his book than just show his maps. He wanted to tell their story. "I've found that books focusing on the maps themselves seem a little dry," he said. "What I wanted to do was place each map in a historic context."

The maps begin in the mid-17th Century, when the area was part of, "New France." A 1688, map by Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin, depicts a lake called, "Lac Des Ilinois" as well as, "Fort Checagou." The book traces the city's humble beginnings and it's boom times. An 1833 map shows just 20 city blocks and a population of just 350. But Mr. Holland's book includes maps made of land that had been divided up for sale and sent East to potential investors. One 80-by-100-foot lot sold for $100 in 1832. It sold in 1834 for $3,400 and the following year went for $15,000.

The book charts the city's tragedy as well. Included is "Richard's Illustrated and Statistical Map of the Great Conflagration in Chicago." The map is a bird's-eye view of the destruction from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The book contains several other bird's-eye views as well.

Not all of the maps are the type to be found in museums. Included is a 1931 map of Chicago's gangs, a map showing the city's jazz clubs, an ethnic map from 1982, and a map of the city's redlight district. One block contained 25 brothels, eight saloons and a bookstore.

While the 1931 gangland map is suprisingly accurate, the same cannot be said for all of Mr. Holland's maps. In his apartment hangs a map of Lake Superior that included some islands named to honor the expedition's financial backers. "There are no such islands," he said.