The task: create a simple web map with at least eight points of interest. I elected to use this opportunity to work toward my Digital History final project, and picked eight spots in Fairmount Park that didn’t make the 1937 Philadelphia city guide walking tours of the park (or, in two cases, are used in substantially different ways than they were in 1937). I chose photos to accompany each point, historic photos except where the new use was what interested me. Here’s the map, but I’ll break down the points of interest below:
- Abraham Lincoln: I chose to highlight this statue because it was captured in one of the stereoscopic views of Fairmount Park in the New York Public Library’s Robert N. Dennis collection. Long-standing public art is fascinating to me and I liked that this particular view was tinted with color as well.
- Hudson Bay Wolves: Another one of the Robert N. Dennis collection, and chosen for essentially the same reasons as the Lincoln sculpture. This one’s located in the zoo, and I thought it had sort of an inter-generational appeal.
- Please Touch Museum: Memorial Hall, originally built for the centennial, made it into the 1937 tours, but I wanted to highlight its new life as a heavily interactive and inter-generational museum.
- Belmont Mansion: Another site that earned a mention in the 1937 city guide, but which has changed significantly. Under its current stewards, this mansion is used to interpret the Underground railroad, rather than the aristocratic Philadelphians who built and occupied it in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Sedgley Woods Disc Golf Course: One of many recreational facilities in Fairmount Park, Sedgley Woods owes its place on this list to my affection for disc golf and its people. The wild scenery and fauna (I saw a deer there!) don’t hurt this course’s appeal. Plus it’s in very close proximity to…
- The Cliffs: Once a mansion like Belmont and Chamounix and home for a summer to Ben Franklin’s daughter, The Cliffs was a victim of fire in 1986 and now draws visitors because of its graffiti-covered shell. Visible from one part of Sedgley Woods.
- Chamounix Mansion: I couldn’t forget my favorite topic of research and conversation! I’ve worked this place into too much of my schoolwork this semester to lose my nerve here. A hostel for the last fifty-two years, this former mansion is just really cool. Worth a visit. Plus it’s not too far from…
- Bridge #704: I must confess that I haven’t actually visited this treasure yet, but I’ve heard it’s incredible and the photos I’ve seen aren’t bad either. A remnant of the trolley that went through Fairmount and ended up at Chamounix, this tunnel is on my list of things to visit the next time I’m over that way.
While this particular map is not a research tool–looking over it doesn’t give me an idea of the distribution of interesting sites in Fairmount Park or show me connections I hadn’t made before–maps like it are valuable tools in driving curious folks to interesting sites. As such, maps are an important tool for the public historian working in heritage tourism-adjacent fields (which is many public historians). Maps can be a way, for instance, for several independent sites to collaborate and facilitate visitors finding all of them. Certain types of people want to be able to navigate space on their own–maps encourage that and (hopefully) make sure they don’t end up totally lost. In short: I love maps.
Image of Bridge #704 by Bradley Maule of Hidden City Philadelphia: http://hiddencityphila.org/2013/08/the-prettiest-old-bridge-to-nowhere/