Category: Web Applications

Updated Richmond Then and Now Application

After some issues with ArcGIS Online, I decided to re-think the Richmond Then and Now application. A while back, I stumbled upon Chris Whong‘s blog post about the Urban Scratchoff application he built using Leaflet.js and thought it would be a good candidate for the Richmond project. The application lets you explore two different maps (one current and one historical) by “Scratching off” one of the maps to show the other. This is similar to the “spy glass” concept in the original application, but with a little more flair and functionality.

The application lets you explore Richmond, Virginia in 1876, a decade after the end of the Civil War compared to present day Richmond. Wonderful details of buildings and their owners, parks and public buildings over-layed with a current aerial image of the city. Pan around and explore the city and use the “Scratch Off” button to see what has changed from 1867 to present day. Hit the swap button below to reverse the layers and the Pan & Zoom Map icon to move around and zoom.

If you are interested in the nitty gritty details of the application visit the about, Chris’s blog or fork the code on Github.

*Special thanks to Chris Whong for developing the code and sharing it with the world!

Click on this Link to check out the new updated Richmond Then and Now!

Richmond Then and Now Scratchoff

Richmond Then and Now Scratchoff

The Fall of Confederate Richmond Envisioned Through Mapping


Damage by the Evacuation Fire of 1865

We have been diligently working on a new project for the Commemoration of the American Civil War 150th Anniversary and the Fall of the Confederacy in Richmond. More specifically, the “Richmond’s Journey in Nine Questions”- A “Pop-Up” Museum on Capitol Square. We wanted to help address questions like what was happening in Richmond on April 2nd-4th 1865? When was the evacuation fires, and how much of Richmond was burned? What better way to do this than with maps! The goal of the project was to map the events leading up to the fall of Richmond.

On the morning of Sunday April 2, 1865 Confederate lines near Petersburg broke after a nine month seige. The retreat of the army left the Confederate capital of Richmond, 25 miles to the north, defenseless. The video we created provides a visual overview of some of the most significant events of the dramatic days that followed.

Over the next three days, the Confederate government evacuated, mobs looted countless stores, fire consumed as many as a thousand buildings, the Union army occupied the city, thousands were emancipated from bondage, and President Abraham Lincoln toured the former Confederate Capital. The animated map illustrates how these momentous events unfolded in time and space.

Spatial data was created using first hand accounts of events. For instance, Lincoln’s visit relied on the detailed account provided by Michael D. Gorman’s “A Conqueror or a Peacemaker?: Abraham Lincoln in Richmond” that appeared in volume 123.1 of the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. Points were placed on locations mentioned in the article and a time attribute was associated if applicable. Lines were drawn between points to simulate a path and additional points were added along the line. These points fire one at a time which gives the appearance of a person moving along the streets.

For the Evacuation Fires we used historic maps detailing the extent of the fire and relied heavily on research of others. Based on historical burn extent maps we recreated the burn extent using F.W Beers footprints that were used for the 3D Richmond project. We scoured the research and found approximate times of when the fire started and when it reached certain locations. From this, I created buffers to approximate the fires’ spread. This was used to randomly distribute points within the footprints and blocks (Image above). The time attribute from the buffer analysis was joined to the points and a random start and end time was given within the time range to help the fire seem more organic and less structured.


Each event was added to CartoDB which utilized its visualization tools. Each visualization was then packaged using Leaflet’s mapping library. To read more about the project and see the video click the image below!


CartoDB and WordPress

I get really excited when you can incorporate maps into any part of your daily life. CartoDB just made it easier to upload web maps to WordPress! I love seeing ways that make web mapping less scary. Check out their blog on WordPress now brings you beautiful maps from CartoDB. Here is a map of the University of Richmond Running Trails, click on the trails to get the distance. Happy mapping everyone!

Richmond Then and Now

Richmond was a very different place a decade after the Civil War than it is today.  When we started working on the Visualizing the Past project for the Library of Virginia, we found a wonderful atlas of Richmond in 1876. This hand painted atlas, published by F.W Beers, features detailed buildings and their owners, parks and public landmarks. These maps served as our basemap for the project because of the great detail they provided. While working on the project I became really interested in what has changed around Richmond since this time.

Richmond Then and Now Scratchoff

Richmond Then and Now Scratchoff



This application has been updated! Check out the new Richmond Then and Now!

Click this link or the image to explore Richmond Then and Now

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