‘Maps of 20th Century Brooklyn’ at Brooklyn Historial Society

Map quest: Navigate Brooklyn’s past via old maps

The Brooklyn Paper
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Time travel might not be possible yet, but this could be the next best thing.

The Brooklyn Historical Society will showcase its collection of old maps of the borough in a presentation on July 10. And the look back through the cartographical catalogue will reveal far more than just forgotten street names, said the organization’s map maven.

“Maps can communicate spatial and temporal information in a way that is immediate and intuitive,” said Lisa Miller, Brooklyn Historical Society’s map cataloger. “Sometimes, what might take paragraphs of explanation can be grasped simply and instantly with one well-designed map.”

The presentation, titled “Boom, Bust, and Back: Maps of 20th Century Brooklyn,” will give a lens to explore the suburban growth of the 1950s, the Bushwick riots of the 1970s, and the rampant hip-ification of Brooklyn in the 1990s.

The event is a part of the Brooklyn Historical Society’s Tales From the Vault series, which will run all summer and explores the history of our fine borough. Next month, the focus will be on antebellum firefighters.

The society’s library staff has been working hard to organize and catalog hundreds of maps that outline the growth, decay, and resurgence of the borough, said Miller.

“Like gardeners turning soil with our spades, we are unearthing these maps and documents in the course of our work,” she said.

Miller found so much information in the maps, she realized during her presentation preparation the that she has enough material to speak for several hours. She has since scaled the talk back to a more reasonable amount, she said, which will allow time for a question and answer portion — and perhaps leave the door open for more map-focused meditations in the future.

“I could tell this story in many different ways,” she said.

“Boom, Bust, and Back: Maps of 20th Century Brooklyn” at the Brooklyn Historical Society [128 Pierrepont St. at Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 222–4111,]. July 10 at 6 pm. Free

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Barbara from Flatbush-Prospect Lefferts says:
I went to Midwood High School, graduating in 1985. It seems tome that I remember seeing in the school library (or was it the BPL branch where I worked back then, the Linden Blvd branch) a number of maps that in retrospect might have come from some sort of local planning board. The maps and pictures were of Brooklyn neighborhoods in the 1960s. I was fascinated by them. These books were very large and the images were striking.
July 7, 2014, 8:43 am
old planner says:
Barbara, if they were roughly 30" X 30", those were the books associated with the sweeping 1961 rezoning of the entire city. See:
July 7, 2014, 11:27 am

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