I worked with Brandon Vogel on a graphic showing the coaching histories of new Husker football coach Mike Riley’s assistants for the issue of Hail Varsity that hit newsstands this week. He’s got a strong history with almost all of them, and we wanted to show where everyone’s careers intersect.
I couple weeks ago, Vox published a few sets of aerial photos showing Rust Belt cities before the interstate system cut through them compared to now. The University of Oklahoma has some more here. But without Omaha represented, I decided to compile a few myself.
An original plan for Omaha’s freeway system had I-480 cutting through Hanscom Park on a path a few blocks west of its final location. The park (and my home) were save when the plan was nixed because Andrew J. Hanscom and James Megeath stipulated the land could never be used for anything other than a city park when they donated it to the city in 1872.
The Omaha Public Library has a 1958 aerial plat atlas on their site. Using its images, I set them next to contemporary aerial imagery.
I love finding great design in everyday places. While traveling down an internet wormhole while researching Omaha history, I came across the Douglas County Engineer’s site. It hosts plats and surveys of the whole city. This gem is the original plat George Smith submitted to the city in 1873 after surveying my house’s subdivision. This thing looks like it should have an “X” marking where Red Beard buried his treasure and a notation over the Hanscom Park lagoon reading “HERE BE MONSTERS.” Let me tell you, the plats of west Omaha suburbs have nothing on this.
I’ve always been a big fan of old maps (especially Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps) for the history and detail they show. But this one is gorgeous. The lettering is fantastic. I love the detail of the compass rose. I also get a kick out of seeing the old names for the numbered streets (Liberty instead of 33rd St.; Madison instead of 32nd Ave.; Delaware instead of 32nd St.; Duane instead of 31st St.; Catherine instead of 30th Ave.; Georgia instead of 29th St.; Virginia instead of what used to be 28th and is now I-480; Mt. Pleasant instead of Pacific St. and Baltimore instead of Hickory St.).
This map may not match contemporary tastes (though there’s certainly a revival in the precise hand lettering Smith used on his map), but it’s interesting to see a very utilitarian object created carefully and in a visually pleasing way. There’s a notion that professional graphic design as we know it originated with the Vignellis, Glasers, Basses and Fletchers of the world. But while they were all in short pants, artists created amazing WPA posters, and before that ethereal lithographs advertising liquor and theaters and bicycles. And before that, craftsmen like George Smith took care care and pride in drafting clerical maps that were unlikely to be seen by more than a handful of real estate and engineering insiders. Today draftsmen digitally export shiny new clerical maps from AutoCAD that are far from anything that anyone would want to hang on a wall, which is exactly what I plan to do with the Hanscom Place plat (perhaps with my addition of a sea serpent in the lagoon).