Final Project, Revised and Finished!

After working on the revisions suggested at the last class all weekend, I think I am finally done with this atlas project. I think it looks much better than before, and really appreciate all the great feedback and tips the class and Dr. Petrik had for me. It’s always nice to get more eyes on a project to help you see the things that weren’t so obvious to you as the creator. It ended up being 2 pages longer since I put each of the Sanborn maps on separate pages. The pages at the end are all images since I ran out of essay, but I think that it still works. I also colored in the river on those maps for continuity.

I still need to print and deliver this project by tomorrow at noon, so I need to find some time to do that still. Other than that, I am done for the semester! It was such a fun class and I’m glad to have worked with everyone in the class. I’ve learned a lot from each of your projects, and now in the very slight chance that anyone you meet says they are from Renovo, you’ll know exactly where that is! Good luck to all my classmates in finishing your finals and the rest of the history program.

Here it is, the final project!

This week I’ve left a comment on Kim’s blog about her final project.

Final Project – Almost!

This past week I’ve been working diligently on my atlas project, which is almost finished. I have all the design done and my text, but I still need to work on my essay as it’s still in it’s rough stage. My argument is that the geographic location of Renovo, PA was instrumental in its success as a railroad town and subsequently as a destination for immigrants from 1880 – 1920. In my essay, I write about the immigrant population of Renovo during this time and how the vast majority of them worked for the railroad or provided some type of service to the community, such as owning businesses like breweries, clothing and tailoring, etc. Had the railroad not decided to establish a railyard and workshops in Renovo, there would not have been such a diverse population of immigrants in the town.

While I was hoping to find patterns of immigrant residences by looking at census records, I found that they were pretty well distributed across town. There was a section in the middle of town that did house many Irish immigrants in 1910, and there was actually a section on the east end of town that was labeled on the 1911 Sanborn map as the “Italian Colony,” so there were a few pockets of Renovo that featured one immigrant group more than the others. There were also a predominance of Austrian-Slovenian and Hungarian-Slovakians to the west of Renovo in an area called Stouts Hill. Most worked for the railroad and those that didn’t worked in a clay mine nearby.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s preliminary projects tonight and also hoping to get some feedback on mine. I think everyone in the class has been working very hard on these projects and I think they will all turn out pretty great.

Here’s my draft – I need to edit the essay, so please pardon its rough state!

My Preliminary Final Atlas Project


I’ve fallen a bit behind on commenting, but last week I commented on Danielle’s blog.

This week I’ve commented on Dale’s preliminary final project.


“Naked” Metro Maps

No, not maps of where naked people ride the metro! I just came across this quiz of identifying cities based on their subway maps drawn to the same scale, with all other landmarks hidden. I took the quiz, because I’m a sucker for map quizzes, and even though I’ve been to a few of the cities featured I passed with a 9 out of 11 correct! If you have time, take the quiz. I mostly guessed on all but a few of them.

These maps are pretty bare bones but they do reflect the geography of their cities. For instance, I guessed correctly on the Chicago map because it looks like it was following the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The New York one kind of looked like it focused more subway lines in the Manhattan area. The funniest one was the Glasgow map, since it was basically just a circle. I totally guessed on that one by the way.

These maps don’t really help with my project directly, but it does have me thinking about how I will want to display the Pennsylvania Railroad lines and if I will want to keep the details of towns/names to help readers identify the area. I think for my project, I will want a happy medium between too much and too little information.

Now to actually get this project done!

Tracing Maps & Mapping Data

This week, I’ve been working on trying to solve my problem of displaying demographic info geographically, when the geographic information isn’t precise. I still haven’t solved that problem, but I’ve played around with different methods of presentation. I’ve also started to recreate a map that I would like to use in my project with Illustrator.

When I visited Renovo in October, I took a photo of a map from 1882 that was framed behind glass on a wall inside the Greater Renovo Area Heritage Park Association’s headquarters. That picture, as you can see below, wasn’t that great, no matter how much Photoshopping I tried.

1882 Map of Renovo with rail yard
1882 Map of Renovo with rail yard


I decided to throw it into Illustrator and start tracing the outlines of the blocks and rail yard, and came up with this image (still unfinished):

Digitally enhanced map of Renovo, PA, 1882
Digitally enhanced map of Renovo, PA, 1882

I colored in the river and applied the inner glow filter to it, as well as placed the tracing on top of a texturized beige background. I tried to replicate the lettering of the streets to match the original, but I might need to go back and touch those up, especially the text on the river. I colored in the grassy lot and combination passenger station and hotel in the upper left corner, just to see how it would look. I’m not quite sure what to do with the rest of the blocks yet, as the detail from the original map is difficult to interpret. I think this version looks much more clean and legible than the original, and I hope I will be able to used this in my final project somehow, even if just to provide an overview of the layout of the town. I also didn’t include South Renovo, as the lots on the original were just placeholders for future development. I may use that space to include a legend of the map.

The other aspect of my project that I’m still wrestling with is the geographic presentation of immigrant distribution throughout the town. While I have house-level detail of address for the 1910 census, the 1880 census only gives me basic information, such as whether they lived in the East or West Wards of the town. In the 1880 census, the wards were divided at 7th Street, so at least I have that information to work with. Since I have entered all the immigrants’ current locations based off the census into a spreadsheet, I tried putting that data into one of the tools I learned about last year in Clio 1. The tool is called RAW, and can help display data tables visually. Since I only had tables of addresses that only contained “East Ward” or “West Ward” and place of birth with countries’ names, I didn’t have any numbers to work with. This limited my options a bit, but I was able to create two different charts to display the demographic distribution.

This first one is an Alluvial Diagram that connects current location with place of birth:

Alluvial Diagram created with RAW
Alluvial Diagram created with RAW

I can’t figure out why Canada and Germany are listed twice, however, which throws off this whole chart. I’ve checked for typos and weird spacings and haven’t found the culprit, so I’ll have to investigate further if I decide to use this in my final project.

This second map uses clusters to illustrate the breakdown of home countries by ward. Canada and Germany were still listed twice, but I was at least able to alter their color codings to have them match up. I still don’t know why it’s doing that, but at least this map is colorful! I’m assuming the larger cluster is the East Ward because that had a larger number of immigrants (and was bigger geographically), but the cluster map doesn’t label it. I Photoshopped in the legend because without it, this just looks like a bunch of pretty dots.

Cluster map made with RAW
Cluster map made with RAW

Both of these maps were created for web display, but RAW allows users to download both the .svg and .png formats in addition to the code to embed on a website. I’m not sure how helpful either of these maps are, but they do illustrate that there was a majority of Irish immigrants in Renovo during the 1880 census, and they resided in the East Ward. The German immigrants were heavily distributed in the West Ward and numbered a little less than the Irish. Even if I don’t use either of these maps in my final project, I think they have given me alternative ideas to display the limited geographic information that I have for the 1880 census.



SketchUp Project

For this assignment, I went back to the 1911 Sanborn map of Renovo, PA and focused my SketchUp project on 3rd – 4th Streets of Erie Avenue. This block would be the first block visitors would see as they exited the railroad passenger station directly across 3rd Street to the west. I used a few photos that I had collected from friends and online sources to reference my SketchUp creation. I tried to be as detailed as possible, especially with the building at 312 Erie Ave, which was the location of Binder’s Hotel in 1911.

I have written in an earlier post about the Binder family, who emigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1852. At least two of the sons, Luke (who was born in Germany) and Adolph (born in Pennsylvania three years after the family’s migration) settled in Renovo as adults to capitalize on the booming railroad industry. Luke purchased and operated a brewery until his death in 1898, as well as bought the building at 312 Erie Avenue in 1887. The building was originally built in 1872 by George Burger, the same man who sold Luke the brewery the same year. It was built as a hotel that could accommodate twenty guests and included a bar and restaurant as well. After Luke Binder purchased the hotel for $8000, he leased it for two years before his brother Adolph took over as proprietor, and opened the business under the name Binder House after making many renovations and improvements. By 1893, Luke, still the owner, built an addition to the hotel that would extend from Erie Ave. to St. Clair Ave. The hotel would stay in the Binder family until at least 1925.

The building no longer stands, as most of this block has either burned down or fell into disrepair over the years. After the railroad closed the repair shops across Erie Avenue in the mid-20th century, the population dropped and businesses closed up shop. Compared with the 1911 Sanborn map,  the modern day Google Earth View of the block looks sparse. I wanted to use SketchUp to recreate some of the buildings that have disappeared and to show the contrast in the density of the block.

I was unable to finish the entire block in time to post this, which I regret, as those buildings have been replaced with a large brick bank and parking lot. There are lots of other features that I would have liked to include as well, such as people and trees to make the street look more bustling. I should have included the railroad tracks on the opposite side of Erie Ave, but the resulting views replicate what rail passengers would view upon entering the town. I really enjoyed working with SketchUp and will attempt to continue to work on finishing the block for my final project. I tried to follow the Sanborn map descriptions as much as possible, while also using photographs from the early 1900s. I used red brick for the street as that was the type of material used before it was covered with asphalt.

I took a few screenshots of the SketchUp that you can view below:

This final image is a photograph I took in October after the annual Flaming Foliage parade, which explains the cars parked in the grass and behind the railroad tracks. You can see the current street view of the same area in the picture, as well as my mom, sister, brother-in-law and my nieces waiting patiently for me to get the photo. The first building on the street is 320 Erie Ave, as the first five structures have been demolished over the years, including the old Binder House.

Current view of Erie Ave from the corner of 3rd Street and Erie Ave.
Current view of Erie Ave from the corner of 3rd Street and Erie Ave.


Short, Wayne E. The History of Renovo, Pennsylvania (1866-1925). Vol. 1. Lock Haven, PA: Reese’s Print Shop, 2003.
This week, I’ve left comments on Josh’s and Jefferson’s blog posts on their SketchUp projects.

Census Records + Sanborn Maps = Frustration

Over the weekend, I had a wonderful idea about my final project! But then I hit a wall. I was going to look at the 1910 census records for all three of Renovo’s districts (East, Middle, & West Wards), extract the locations of all of the immigrant workers in the town, then plot those locations on the 1911 Sanborn map to visualize any patterns that might have been occurring at the time. Sounds easy enough, right? Well after I printed all 100+ pages of census data (at least Renovo’s a small town!), I grabbed seven different colored highlighters to color code anyone who was listed as being born in a foreign country. This part was fun! I kept notes on where they worked and where they were born, and unsurprisingly, most immigrants worked for the railroad. In 1911, I counted a total of 185 immigrant workers in the town, with 143 of them working in some capacity for the railroad.

From there I went through the highlighted list of immigrant railroad workers and began plotting them on the 1911 map in Illustrator, trying to keep my color-coded system going. I used yellow for Swedish, orange for German, green for Irish, purple for Italian, dark blue for Hungarian-Slovakian, and light blue for Austrian-Slovenian, just to name the most frequent nationalities. Below you can see one section of the map that I am still working on, a part of the West Ward, 4th-6th Streets. I’ve only included railroad workers here, but plan on adding all immigrant workers.

Railroad workers in Renovo born outside the U.S. based on 1910 census
Railroad workers in Renovo born outside the U.S. based on 1910 census

I planned on following this approach for the rest of the map, but ran into a problem when I got to the outskirts of town, specifically to the west. The majority of Austrian-Slovenians and Hungarian-Slovakians lived in an area called Stouts Hill that is not referenced on the 1911 map. Knowing about the geography of the area, I know where this location is and also that the majority of the houses on Stouts Hill were demolished well after 1911 (not sure on exact date but most likely mid-20th century) to make more room for the state highway that currently occupies that space today. There are some dwellings on the Sanborn map (next to Binders Brewery, also an immigrant-owned business) that match up with the house numbers on the census, but then the house numbers continue where there aren’t any mapped locations. Where I think the census records should match up, the house numbers on the map are not the same in the census. It looks like the census enumerator just started counting the houses at some point, as they are numbered sequentially, 1, 2, 3, etc. Another issue is that the area on the map called Smoky Hollow isn’t included in the census records. I think the enumerator visited those houses, but possibly labeled them as being part of Stouts Hill, but I do not know for sure, as the house numbers don’t match up either. Geographically, Smoky Hollow is adjacent to Stouts Hill, so it is plausible. I’m not sure how to map the data to the exact location.

Possibly Stouts Hill and Smoky Hollow, 1911 Sanborn map
Possibly Stouts Hill and Smoky Hollow, 1911 Sanborn map

This problem is causing me much frustration and I don’t know how to solve it. Realizing that the census data is from 1910 and the map is from 1911, I expected some wrinkles. One option would be to not include those who I cannot map, but that leaves out a large chunk of immigrant workers that I want to display. My goal is to splice together the different sheets of the Sanborn map to show the entire town, but I can only work with what exists. I really want to show as much detail as possible, but I could attempt to do more generic visualization of immigrant workers in the town, like a heat map.

Another problem I am having is that I wanted to show the changes in the number of immigrant workers over time. I wanted to go back to the 1880 census and map the houses of all the foreign-born workers but the closest Sanborn map I have is from 1887, and I feel like seven years is too wide of a gap to map. Also, these records don’t even include house numbers for me to plot, so I would need to use a different visualization method.  If anyone has read through this entire confusing post and has any ideas or suggestions for me, I would be happy to hear them. Hopefully the rest of the class is having an easier time with their final projects!

This week I’ve commented on Kim’s blog post on her SketchUp project.


Having Fun with SketchUp

This past week I’ve been playing with SketchUp, after learning how to use it during last week’s class. In class, we worked on recreating a block of Cheyenne, Wyoming using a 1912 Sanborn map from the Library of Congress. SketchUp’s fairly easy to use once you get a hang of how the tools operate, but I feel like there is so much more that the software can do that I haven’t explored yet.

I definitely want to include a 3D version of a Sanborn map in my final project, in order to visualize how the busy street of Erie Ave. in Renovo appeared in 1911, so I did some practice over the weekend with the map I had. I just focused on one block (3rd-4th Streets) and managed to get half of the block outlined and painted with either wood or brick paints. I’ll have to try to use old photographs to help with the details of the buildings, as Sanborn maps only have the outline of buildings, as well as how many stories tall they were, and their building material. I didn’t want to do too much to the Renovo map, as I am hoping we learn more tonight in class.

It would be great to learn more about using Natural Scene Designer as well, as I think using that software to recreate the topography of Renovo in addition to using SketchUp would make the final image more life like. I’m thinking I could use Photoshop to mesh the street view with the topographic view, as Renovo’s mountains are equally important as its streets.


This week I’ve commented on Dale’s and Kimberly’s blog posts.


Photoshopping the Shops on Erie Ave

For this assignment, I played around in Photoshop with two images I may use in my final assignment. One is the Sanborn map of Renovo, PA from 1911 and the other is a postcard dated from 1908 of the bustling street scene on Erie Ave that I found on eBay. The postcard was a bit tricky to work with since it wasn’t a typical photograph, but rather a type of lithograph that added color to the original photo. I thought its focus on the street scene parallel to the railroad tracks would be a good visual representation of what the 1911 insurance map had depicted. Both the map and postcard include the footbridge over the rail yard, which I thought was a good landmark to feature since it was an access point between the town’s business district and the railroad shops for the the railroad workers.

I also thought it was interesting to see how the the Sanborn map can help identify what the buildings in the photographs were. For example: The first shop on the corner of 5th and Erie has a man standing outside the store who may be a customer exiting, or he could be an employee or owner of the shop. From the Sanborn map, that same building is labeled as “Tobacco & Pool” and if I look close enough, I can almost imagine that the sign outside says “cigars” but the resolution isn’t clear enough to be totally sure, even after my Photoshopping attempts. I’ve since purchased the postcard from eBay so maybe when I see it in print I will be able to decipher the sign.

Working in Photoshop, I took the original postcard image and changed the image size to approx. 4×6 inches and set the resolution to 300, thereby enlarging it. I tried various filters, such as “despeckle” to help smooth out the graininess of the picture. I also did some clean up work on the image with the “spot healing tool” to remove blemishes, and the “patch tool” to fix the discoloration the right hand edge of the card. I adjusted the curves a bit and used the “dodge” and “burn” tools to see how they could alter the image. The burn tool made the edges of the building a little darker and the dodge tool made the shop windows a little more lighter.

The changes to the Sanborn map were not as complicated. I cropped a 4×6″ section out of the original, making sure to capture the Erie Ave shops and footbridge that are featured in the postcard. I also downsized the resolution to 300 dpi. Then I decided to rotate it 90 degrees clockwise to have the streets mimic the orientation of the postcard. After that, I wasn’t sure what to do next. I didn’t want to tint the image (or the map) because every time I did, I just didn’t like what I saw.

Then I thought about replacing the sky and street with the beige color of the Sanborn map to reflect a common color. I used the “magic wand” to select large sections of the sky and remove them from the image, then touched up what was left with the eraser. Then I added a new layer below the postcard and filled it in with the “Sanborn Beige” color I had sampled from the map. It looked a little odd with the street and sky being replaced with the beige, like the shops were just floating in space. So I thought I could connect the two images by enlarging the canvas to place both images together in one image. I’m still not sure this is the best I could do, but it was better than having the two images separated. Combining them also helps draw the viewer to the map to try to identify the shops. I tried two different orientations of the 1911 map to see how they would both look with the postcard, and I’m not sure which one is better (or worse). I think the one with the cropped map on top is less busy and easier to view, though. However, I had to crop some of postcard scene out and play with the sizing more to get it to fit. I liked this assignment because it helped me practice my Photoshop skills that have gotten rusty, even if I’m not 100% satisfied with the results.

After Photoshop, 1911 map on bottom, postcard on top
After Photoshop, 1911 map on bottom, postcard on top
After Photoshop, 1911 map on top, postcard on bottom
After Photoshop, 1911 map on top, postcard on bottom


This week, I’ve commented on Jefferson’s digitally enhanced images on his blog.


Behind on Blogging

I’ve gotten way behind in my blogging this week, so I think I’ll just point out some of my classmates’ posts that I found especially interesting and have commented on.

Danielle’s final project idea about using zip codes has the potential to turn out pretty interesting, as zip codes are basically geographic codes for the postal service to use. However, she has also found other uses for zip codes that have used demographic information to create different types of maps.

Erin’s recent post on comparing the Game of Thrones’ map of Westeros with the map of the U.S. made me realize just how huge the fictional setting really is. He includes a map that places the two regions side by side for comparison, which is pretty interesting to see.

I related to Josh’s post on mapping sounds as he wrote about the difference between noises heard in rural Pennsylvania compared to the sounds of the DC metro area. Growing up in a similar location that’s fairly quiet in its surrounding woods and mountains, I can see the value in mapping geographic areas by the noises and sounds they emit.


Research on My Final Project

This past weekend I went back to my hometown of Renovo, PA and was able to find some information that should help with my final project. On Saturday, I got the chance to visit the Greater Renovo Area Heritage Park Association’s headquarters at 530 Erie Avenue.  The association has recently restored the building and now houses historical artifacts, photographs, and a map from 1882 that I tried to get a photograph of. I spoke with a few members of the association about my project and they were very interested and suggested another project about the CCC camps in the area that they think I might be able to help out with as well. A friend of mine also had some historical photos of the town and my mom had several books for me to consult. It was very productive!

1882 Map of Renovo with railyard
1882 Map of Renovo with railyard

So far, in my head, my project will focus on what Renovo looked like geographically over the past 150 years, as next year the town will celebrate its sesquicentennial. Prior to being incorporated as a borough, the Renovo area was a hunting area for native Americans. I’d like to include a map of the Sinnemahoning Path, which crossed through Renovo and follows the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and PA Route 120, to highlight how this path is still being used today. I also want to see how the old railroad lines matched up with this path and see how they compare to the old travel routes.

View of Erie Ave in 1910s
View of Erie Ave in 1910s

Another part of my project will hopefully utilize some of the software we’ve been learning or will learn, such as Natural Scene Designer and SketchUp. I’d like one section of the project to focus on Erie Avenue and the railroad by reconstructing what the area looked like in the early 1900s (1900 – 1915). I’ve been collecting images of Erie Avenue from this time period to help provide me with the details I’ll need for reconstructing. I plan on using the 1911 Sanborn map and making it look 3D with SketchUp. I’d also like to try a line of sight image of what Erie Avenue would have looked like as one exited a train at the passenger station at the end of the street in 1911. I also would like to feature Binder’s Brewery into my project by using the old Sanborn maps to show its transformation over the years. The brewery was located to the west of Renovo but still within the town limits. I’m thinking about including a modern day view of the town to compare/contrast the geography of Renovo with its historical counterpart, but I may be taking on too much. I think I can do it, though, I just need to plan. Right now I have my finished product all inside my head and need to transfer it to my sketch pad to see how it will turn out on paper.