For those of us who are into these kinds of things, we have all admired the 1963 axonometric (“bird’s eye view”) Bollman Map of New York City that was commissioned for the 1964 World’s Fair. We also know and love the 1980 Anderson Isometric Map of Midtown Manhattan, the detailed three-dimensional map that depicts every structure, down to its canopies, in mid-Manhattan. Lesser known, but no less detailed, are the Living Maps of the Upper West and Upper East Sides by the Identity Map Company made in the 1990′s.
Surveyed and designed by brothers Danniel S. and Jackson C. Maio, founders of the Identity Map Company, the four-section map delineates every building from 56th to 121st Street and from the Hudson to the East Rivers in Manhattan. Printed in 1996 and 1997 and three years in the making, these maps document a moment in time in a city that is forever changing.
The Maio brothers set out to create map that could be used for everyday life by residents and visitors alike. Therefore, they not only labeled hospitals, they included every doctor’s office. They not only marked houses of worship, they specified denominations. They not only marked the subway stations, they indicate if an entrance is open 24 hours. The map, which comes in two double-sided sections, measures 6 1/2 feet by 4 1/2 feet when combined and laid flat and is printed on a thick paper that does not tear or crease easily.
Danniel, who had a background in real estate before going into the map business, did most of the surveying by walking the streets and meticulously noting every structure on every street. Jackson, whose background is in architecture, did most of the design and layout of the map. The result of this collaboration is a beautiful (and useful) map that documents Manhattan in the late 1990′s, just before it moved into the new millennium and its landscape changed forever.
When Danniel and Jackson decided to quit their day jobs and start a map company in 1992, their family was more than a little concerned. Today, 20 years later, their company is still in business, but they take on for-hire jobs to make maps for other companies to keep their labor of love alive.
I caught up with Danniel recently and spoke to him about the Living Maps. He explained to me that whatever else he and his brothers do, they can be confident that they have “left a trace.” Danniel explains in a 1997 New York Times article:
We don’t want to sound bombastic, …but we want to leave a record. If we’re going to be here on earth, what can we leave that civilization can benefit from? Certainly, a map will live longer than we will.
For the record, the Living Maps, along with the Maio brothers’ passion for New York City, are archived in major collections throughout the country and the world, including at the Library of Congress.
The Upper West Side and Upper East Side Living Maps are available through the Identity Map Company website: http://www.identitymap.com/order/order.php