- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2000

In case you have wondered who's responsible for laying out the District the way it is, you can blame (or praise) French architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant. Believe it or not, his design has survived hundreds of years of development, modernization and acts of God.
Don't take my word for it. Visit his original map of the District at http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/us.capitol/twtynine.jpg.
The map is just one link at a neat Web site I stumbled upon called D.C. Maps (http://www.mindspring.com/~chadallen/dc/simple/dchistor.htm). Though the Web address leaves much to be desired, the content is worth tapping the keys.
"There are several types of home pages," writes Tom Howder, the site designer. "Some provide tons of useful information on a small topic, some provide the necessary links to all that stuff, while some are just useless. I fear mine fits more into the third category."
I disagree and thank this humble man for leaving D.C. Maps on the Web, now hosted and maintained by Chad Allen. It's enlightening to watch the developmental history of this great city unfold before your eyes, click by click.
Washingtonians have a rich heritage of planned growth and these maps prove it. Most of us in the suburbs can look back a few years to just trees and pastures. But the urbanites can really say they live in a place that's part of history.
Mapping on the Internet has made surveys, research and curiosity a more active spectator sport. The County Mapper in Prince William County, for instance, is an interactive Geographical Information System (GIS) application that allows users to view and query the county's GIS data.
One co-worker has pulled down the satellite image of his house in Lake Ridge and posted it as his computer's wallpaper. There you see his cul-de-sac with all the neighbors' cars in the drive all from the perspective of outer space. To see your home from space in Prince William County, point your browser to http://www.pwcgov.org/oit/gis/ims.htm.
If you really want to see development in action, check out the Fairfax Time Machine at http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/maps/map.htm, where users can pick a highlighted area of the map to see an animation of that area from 1937 to 1990. The three areas available are Tysons Corner, Kamp Washington and Chantilly, each with a high-resolution download (about 1Mb) and reduced versions ranging from 200K to 345K.
Want more maps? Check out these sites for digital mapping, including ecological, economic and demographic maps from nationwide:
University of Virginia's digital mapping on-line listing: http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/collections/digimaps.html
n Microsoft's Satellite GIS Maps: http://www.terraserver.microsoft.com/default.asp
U.S. Census demographic and economic profiles: http://www.census.gov/datamap/www/
As we imagine where the future lies for development and construction in our area, sometimes it's nice to just relax and take a look back in time.
M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate issues for 11 years. Comments and questions can be directed to macarr@nvar.com.

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