Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bird's Eye View of Maynard

In 1879 the professional mappers O.H. Bailey & J.C. Hazen drew and published an aerial view map of Maynard. Originals of the printed map are on file at the Library of Congress. The LOC website has more than 500 aerial view maps on file, including South Action and Concord Junction (West Concord). There are no records of aerial view maps ever being made for Stow or Sudbury. See http://www.loc.gov/item/75694589/ for the Maynard map.   

1879 Bird's Eye View of Maynard, MA by O.H. Bailey
Click on image to enlarge
From the Library of Congress website: “The panoramic map was a popular cartographic form used to depict U.S. and Canadian cities and towns during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Known also as bird's-eye views, perspective maps, and aero views, panoramic maps are non-photographic representations of cities portrayed as if viewed from above at an oblique angle. Although not generally drawn to scale, they show street patterns, individual buildings, and major landscape features in perspective.”


To create one of these, the artist or artists first walked about town sketching drawings of individual buildings. All these individual sketches became information for the hand-drawing of the complete map.

The view of Maynard is as if from a hot air balloon tethered about 2000 feet straight up from the Glendale Cemetery, facing north. The drawing may not be entirely house-to-house accurate, but major buildings are present and identified. What is of interest is what was mapped and what is missing. The Mill, of course, occupies the center of the map: two smokestacks smoking, and a railroad siding between the Mill and the pond. The pond is much larger than at present; the mill complex much smaller.

The Maynard mansions – Amory’s and Lorenzo’s – are drawn in great detail on the hill south of the Mill. A large insert below the main map shows the Mill in more detail, viewed this time from the north, with the Maynard mansions in the background. No surprise here, as the map was commissioned by the Assabet Manufacturing Company, Amory Maynard, Agent (a title akin to today's Chief Operating Officer).

The map shows major streets: Main, Nason, Summer, Parker, Walnut, and Sudbury. And minor streets: Thompson Court, River, Maple, Brooks, Glendale, Pleasant, Percival, Pine, Warren, and Summer Lane (now Summer Hill). The Congregational Church, 18 years older than the town of Maynard, is in place. A school stands where the Library is now. Saint Bridgets Roman Catholic church stands on the site of today’s police station. A sizeable paper mill with its own power plant was downstream from the woolen mill. Glendale House, later renamed the Maynard Hotel, stood at the site of today’s Memorial Park until it burned in 1921. There was no Florida Street bridge over the river.

Oakley H. Bailey, one of the better-known panoramic artists, lived long enough to see his profession become obsolete. He was born in 1843, served in the Civil War, then took up the panoramic map trade in 1871. He retired at age 80 years. The Library of Congress biography cites a 1932 interview in which he said “…airplane cameras are covering the territory and can put more towns on paper in a day than was possible in months by hand work...” He lived until 1947. His life began in the era of steam-powered trains and ended in the age of jet planes and computers.

Today, websites such as Bing (Microsoft) offer map programs that provide choices of map, street level, aerial, i.e., straight down, or bird's eye, meaning angled approximately 45 degrees. For the last, it is possible to rotate the view so as to see the same site from the south, west, north and east. Creating these meant flying an airplane along north-south and east-west lines with cameras on both sides filming continuously.

One interesting observation here is that the images are not always synchronized in time. For example, at one website Maynard's bird's eye image still shows the two-level parking deck facing Nason Street, while in the aerial image it no longer exists.

Copies of the 1879 Maynard map in a range of sizes can be purchased from various on-line vendors. Size options range from as small as 11x14 inches to as large as 30x40 inches. The document can also be downloaded as a JPG file from either Boston Public Library or the Library of Congress.

A version of this column was first published in the Beacon-Villager in February 2010, later incorporated into book MAYNARD: History and Life Outdoors (2011).



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