A Hundred Years Of Artists’ Maps Of New York City

Many artists and designers created their visions of the present and future of New York through the years.

Earliest map of New York

It was in 1660 that the first known map of New Amsterdam – now called New York City – was created. It was made by a Dutch surveyor named Jacques Cortelyou, and the map was named as the Castello Plan. After 3 years, the British captured New Amsterdam from the Dutch. An unknown mapper tore the plan and made a better rendering of this city given to James Duke of York, later known as King James I.

From then on, centuries’ worth of imaginative renderings of the city kicked off. Many artists have already created their own New York City Illustrated Map, with the use of things ranging from honeycomb to those scratch-and-sniff stickers.

1911: “Greatest New York”

In 1911, Henry Wellge made a color lithograph that pictures an overview of ‘Greatest’ (not just ‘Greater’) New York prior to it taken over by skyscrapers.

1928: “A Map of New York in the Air” or “Super-Man-Hattan”

This map called “Super-Man-Hattan,” created by Mélanie Elisabeth Leonard, came a decade prior to Marvel Comics’ Superman. In this vision, a pterodactyl in purple color looks down at the cityscape.

1933: “A Night Club Map of Harlem”

Cartoonist Elmer Simms Campbell showcases the Jazz Age New York.

1953-1955: “Wonders of New York”

This pictorial map, created by Nils Hansell, contains 301 city sites into just 6 square feet.

1969: “Plan for an underground nuclear shelter”

This design was created by Oscar Newman, a NY architect and city planner. It proposed a “sci-fi” solution to making more space in the Manhattan area. He recommended for developers to make use of nuclear explosions in order to make spaces under New York.

1977: “49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs”

John Cage was commissioned by Rolling Stone. He presented a map with 49 triangles which were drawn on a Hagstrom map.

1988: “Inside Tompkins Square Park”

This parodies the borough of Manhattan during the crack epidemic and created by cartoonist Stan Mack.

1999: “Ground Zero”

Made by Jeff Woodbury, it is a map that has a Columbus Circle by its center that radiates out in several rings for every 15 miles.

2008: “The Metropolis 2108”

There are several details in this Rick Meyerowitz vision that are foreboding now, such as the ‘Trump Sump’ being adjacent to the ‘Monument to the Last Liberal.’

2014: “Type City”

Hong Seon Jang turned letters that came from a letterpress to buildings in this tiny Manhattan.