v26-2 Early Road Maps of Edgewater and the North Side

Vol. XXVI No. 2 - SUMMER 2015

By Robert Remer

On March 21, the membership met at the Edgewater Library to elect Board members, hear about EHS progress, and hear from a noted and interesting speaker.

The membership accepted a report from the Board Development Committee with recommendations for filling 1/3 of the Board seats and re-elected Board members Marsha Holland, Arthur Arfa, LeRoy Blommaert, Paul Bonilla and Bob Remer; they also elected our newest Board member, Steve Meiss, to his first term.

Our speaker was Dr. James Akerman, who spoke on Early Road Maps of Edgewater and the North Side. Dr. Akerman is Director of the Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography at the Newberry Library, a post he has held since 1996, having worked at the Newberry since 1985. He holds a Ph.D in Geography from Penn State University, and is the author of many studies of the social and political aspects of cartography, railroad and road maps, and the history of atlases.

He has edited or co-edited four collections of essays in the history of cartography and has curated or co-curated four major exhibits, most recently, “Ptolemy’s Geography and Renaissance Mapmakers,” and “Maps: Finding Our Place in the World.” In 2003 he completed “Historic Maps in K-12 Classrooms,” a website supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, that uses digital images of original maps from the Newberry’s collections to teach the geographic dimensions of American history.

In his presentation, he traced the development of Indian trails and roads to the different levels of the Lake Michigan lake front ridges over the millennia, which preceded the grid system we are so used to. He presented a number of early maps, including railroad maps, an 1892 bike trail map, and an 1851 map of Ridgeville, which was the township that included Edgewater before becoming part of Lakeview Township. He also traced the history of the Good Roads Movement when the auto industry was expanding, and there was pressure to improve roads, but the resistance of the railroads slowed down the development of roads and delayed federal support. It was a very visual presentation that also included many samples of 20th century road maps.