The mapping tools

These are great days for map lovers. The new mapping technologies are remarkable, and evolving rapidly.

Geography students will be familiar with the state-of-the-art mapping tool ArcGIS, now available in many high school and universities. I did not have access to this expensive software during the development of the PARK LOT PROJECT maps.

Instead, I used freeware tools easily accessible on the web.

The PARK LOT PROJECT was built using Google's new Fusion Tables, which I think of as the poor girl's ArcGIS. The Fusion Tables mapping API (application programming interface) reads complex tables of data — easily created online or imported from Excel files — and displays them overlaid atop a Google Map, layered one on top of the other. Fusion Tables has some serious limitations but the PARK LOT PROJECT interactive map show how far this tool can be pushed using html, CSS style sheets, and some creative programming.

You can see Google's introduction to Fusion Tables here.

Also, my thanks to Kjell Scharning, a mapping enthusiast in Norway, who fine-tuned his polygon-creation and editing tools to simplify my mapping of the park lots. You can see his polygon-drawing tool here and his editing tool here.

I also found some of the Google Earth drawing and organizational tools extremely useful.

For design, html-editing and content management I use Adobe's Dreamweaver. For graphics work I use Adobe's Fireworks, Photoshop or Illustrator, depending on the task at hand.

Colour-coding of the park lots and township lots

Originally I colour-coded the lot rectangles according to the family who ended up owning them. (e.g. Green lots through the centre of the map represented the Baldwin family estate. Other colours were assigned to the Denison, Playter, and Ashbridge families, all of whom owned property throughout the Township of York.)

More recently I decided it would be more useful to colour-code based on the professional category of the original grantees: blue indicates the owners were military men, pink for government officials, and green for yeomen and tradesmen (carpenters, farmers, millers, etc.) Orange is used for clergy reserves, and yellow for government reserves. Grey is used for lots that have no grant or biographical information added.

How I created the four historic map overlays

When I decided to attempt overlaying early, pre-city maps on top of the present-day Google map, as a way of comparing then and now, I did not have access to the ArcGIS software, which makes this (relatively) easy.

Instead I developed a work-around, which I can't really recommend to you as the way to go about this. First technical problem: the final file had to be in KML format, as Google maps doesn't (didn't) read KMZ files — which allow for the rotation of an overlay image — and Fusion Tables doesn't support overlays at all. Therefore, while I could fairly easily create a KMZ overlay file for Google Earth, that file wouldn't work with Google Maps, where the PARK LOT PROJECT is hosted.

My solution involved several steps: first I used Google Earth tools to overlay a digitized version of the historic map and to overlay it on the Google Earth map. After distorting the image for accuracy — fitting it as closely as possible over the present-day map — I took a screenshot of the overlay. I imported this into Illustrator and used it as a template for distorting the original image manually. Using this distorted image, and using the coordinates of the Google Earth overlay, I was able to overlay the map (more or less) accurately on top of the Google map.

Wish list

Visitors are asking for a SEARCH function to locate a particular name or lot location.

Also mentioned is a mouse-over function that will pop up the title of each lot or marker as you roll over it.

These are excellent suggestions and I hope to add these features to the map some time in the future. I would be grateful for programming suggestions from programmers familiar with fusion tables.


The TORONTO PARK LOT PROJECT — an exploration of the earliest days of the TOWN OF YORK, founded in 1793 by John Graves Simcoe, first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada. Copyright © Wendy Smith 2012/2013/2014/2015/2016.

http://wendysmithtoronto.com/parklotproject