I love maps. One of my favorite parts of graduate school was the amount of time that I got to spend interacting with maps of all kinds. From little old hand-drawn 18th century maps, to huge interactive digital maps and everything in between. One of the most interesting kinds of maps to me was the USGS Quadrangle Map. These maps, which go back through time for decades, are remarkably detailed, and cover the entire country, showing roads, topography, and some structures. They’re really great, and you can download high-quality PDFs of them, for free, (or buy large prints for much less than it would cost you to print them yourself unless you own a plotter) from USGS’s Map Locator & Downloader, because they’re a wonderful agency.

Anyway, I recently saw a lovely print in a colleague’s office that I immediately recognized as a USGS Quad Map of a portion of northwest Washington, D.C., but it had been changed to a pure black and white, and inverted so that the background was dark and the lines were white. It was great! However, it wasn’t the whole city. As such, I decided to spend an hour or so downloading all four quad maps, stylizing them, and then combining them to make a map that showed the whole District, as a tribute to my beloved hometown. I think they’re pretty neat, and I didn’t have anything else to blog about this week, so since they’re based on historic maps (1957 if I recall correctly), I thought I’d share some reduced-size versions of the finished product here (note that at full size, it’s actually really readable, and not as abstract as it looks zoomed out):

Version 1 - Dark Monochrome
Version 1 – Dark Monochrome
Version 2 - Light
Version 2 – Light