Blog Comments

Here are my comments on student’s blogs for the week. Enjoy:


“It is high time that the ideal of success should be replaced by the ideal of service” – Albert Einstein

Yesterday I received a mailer soliciting donations for Alice Lloyd College.

Alice Lloyd College is an institution of higher learning located in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky. Alice Lloyd, a northern newspaper woman who moved to the area in search of a more favorable climate, founded the school in 1916. This college actually began as a primary school which Mrs. Lloyd opened after observing the lack of educational opportunities available to the children of Appalachia.  The school was one of the only schools in the region so students began to flock there from miles around. Lacking proper funds or facilities, Mrs. Lloyd used those resources which were available to her – the students. Students were put to work building facilities, doing chores, cooking, and cleaning. This tradition of work has lived on at Alice Lloyd College, and today all of their students work at the school and in the local community in exchange for their tuition.

This is why they were soliciting donations. “They don’t expect a handout, but they do need a helping hand” according the Joe Alan Steep, President of the college. Ordinarily I would have thrown a mailer like this out without reading it (and after reading the poorly written content of the letter, I certainly won’t be donating), but one aspect of the packet caught my attention.

The prepaid envelope with which to return donations displays a map titled “The Purpose Road.”  This map shows an island surrounded by God, the Ocean of Power, All Supply, and The Stream of Plenty. On the island you find the self as a building with good and evil at either end. This self is surrounded by a larger fence which houses social, mental, physical and spiritual responsibility.  Moving out from this zone of the self, you first have to go through the Good Lord on the Purpose Road, which is lined on all sides by pillars of service, including duty and action. Finally the end of this road map to personal and community development is world service.

Created in the 1870s by George Herbert Palmer, a professor of philosophy at Harvard, this map tracks personal development spatially.  It argues that the key for success and a purpose driven life is, first and foremost, belief in God. From there a person needs to acquire courage and self-discipline so that they can serve the greater good. This map combines religious, imaginary, and educational mapping techniques to map the steps an individual must take in order to serve the world.

Though specifics as to what one should do in order to serve, or what service really means, this map is educational in its simplicity and its incorporation of mapping to communicate a message of work, Christianity, and volunteerism.   It also demonstrates the power of maps. In the limited space within a mailer of this nature, the people of Alice Lloyd College chose to include a map because they believed it would easily and quickly communicate their world view. Perhaps it does. But I’m not going to donate to make this world view a reality.

Washington DC Alley Houses

This week I chose to look at an expanded view of Georgetown. Previously I had been looking at only one region of the neighborhood, but by including just a few more blocks to the west of Tudor Place I was able to also explore an early African American community in Washington DC.

Left to Right: 1903 map of Georgetown, 1927 map of Georgetown. Each map shows the African American neighborhood between Wisconsin and 32nd Street, just west of Tudor Place.

In 1810 53% of Georgetown’s population was black, with 2/3 of that population living as slaves. By 1863 60% of Georgetown’s population was black, and all were free.  A portion of this large African American community lived in the free black community established along Q Street between Wisconsin and 32nd in the 1850s. These homes were two story, brick or frame row homes which were frequently built off of main roads. These homes were known as “alley houses” and were a popular building style in the federal city amongst the African American community. “By their peak in 1900 about 3,500 alley houses existed in nearly 250 alley blocks throughout the city. The alley population was just over 19,000 people, of whom 90% were black.”[1]These alley houses were so popular not only because they were relatively easy and inexpensive to build, but also because a strong sense of community was established around alley life.

Aerial view of alley houses in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington DC, 1935.

In 1909 Charles Weller described “older folks, crowded around their doorways… calling back and forth to each other across the alley street” as he passed through the alley with trepidation.[2] For Weller, and many other white residents of Georgetown, these alley houses represented a seedy underbelly of Washington poverty. But for the African Americans who lived within them they provided community living which took place in the space between their houses.

Lacking yards, fences, and even front steps in many cases, there were few divides between the house and the alley, many alley residents did their chores outside in the alley, and set up couches and chairs outside.[3] This created a communal living space within which an African American community developed. Living off of the main road also provided these families some isolation from their white neighbors. It is because of this important sense of community that I chose to make my sketch-up of the African American alley house community in Georgetown in the somewhat less detailed monopoly house style. I wanted to make sure that you could see all of the houses as they related to one another.

Aerial view of African American community in Georgetown, 1888.

In the 1930s the location of alley dwellings became more appealing for the white residents of the city. Those alley houses which had once been described as the cause for various social ills, from illegitimacy to crime, were now seen as a great place to live.[4] One of the causes of this change was the rise of the automobile. Their location off of the beaten path of busier streets meant that they provided a safer place to park your car. It is about this time that you see rezoning in Washington DC, which pushed the African American community out of their alley homes.  In 1938 the C&O Canal was made a historic site, in 1949 Georgetown was declared a historic district, and in 1950 the Congressional “Old Georgetown Act” required all building plans to be approved through city legislation was passed.  Each of these changes created harsher zoning restrictions, increased property values, and pushed out the black residents. These alley homes were revamped, more detailed facades were added, and small yards were built where none existed before. These once scary alley homes are now some of the most desired homes in the city.

Alley houses as they look today.

In this photo, which was taken along 32nd Street in Georgetown, you can still see the basic alley house structures shown in the Logan Court historical photo above, even though they have been renovated.

[1] James Borchert “Alley Landscapes of Washington DC” within Common Places, edited by John Michael Vlach and Dell Upton (1986).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Things got a little wacky this week…

I’ll say one thing for this class – it has given me some gorgeous coffee table books. For me the readings this week were more significant because of their use of visually interesting and uniquely stylized maps, rather than for their analysis of said maps.  This inspired me to create different kinds of maps which I have not attempted before.

“I Map, Therefore I Am.”

Katharine Harmon’s You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination argues that mapping is a part of human nature. We all desire from the youngest age to create visuals which represent places and processes, real or imagined, through the map.  Though all maps are important, those maps which dismiss traditional cartographic principles are even more intriguing and influential to the human experience.

The use of various kinds of creative mapping in the You Are Here book inspired me to create three distinct maps. The first is a color wheel map showing the breakdown of my day. Inspired by the “Map of My Day” on pages 62-63 in Harmon’s work, I chose a circle instead of a square pattern for my map to highlight the cyclical nature of my weekdays. The time table reveals that the majority of my 24 hours is spent doing homework (yellow) as I am involved in that activity for about 9 hours daily, with sleep (pink) coming in second with 7 hours. If I’m being honest, seeing that made me a little sad. Time in the car and time at the gym are tied at about two hours each.

The next map which I was inspired to make from the reading was a metamorphic map I’ve decided to call “Building a Dancer.” As we learned last week in our Dillon readings, metamorphic maps are those maps which overlay a physical body on a body of land to characterize that region or nation. My metamorphic map is a play on this kind of creative cartography, and is more akin to those maps in the “Personal Geography” chapter of You Are Here than it is to the maps in the Dillon article. With my “Building a Dancer” I am attempting to show connections between the physical body and the map by tracking my personal development.

The legs are the base of the dancer. Because of that the images on it of various kinds of dance shoes, as well as the dance schools where I took classes are meant to represent the base of my dance knowledge. The tutu breaks up the body for the first time. It shows a picture of a Carnival Cruise ship because that was where I received my first paying job as a dancer. From there the leotard shows various venues and shows where I performed after being indoctrinated into the world of professional dancing. The arms are spotlights. I chose to make them in first position wrapping around the body because a dancer is always in the center of a spotlight. The final thing of significance is the hair which I chose to make green and gold, the colors of my undergraduate institution. This represents the last time I was a practicing dancer as a member of the William and Mary dance team in college.


My final map is a movement map of my dog Roscoe’s day. I was inspired by the kinds of lighthearted mapping shown in the Roger Sherrif “At Home in the World” chapter. The green arrows represent voluntary movements (where he chooses to go in the apartment), the orange arrows represent involuntary movements (when I make him get up to go outside), and the red X’s represent where he chooses to sit or sleep.

The first stop in Roscoe’s day is the bed where he sleeps from 5am to 8am, followed by the couch from 8am to 10am, and the office chair from 10am to 2pm. What this tells me is that in the morning Roscoe is interested in resting in the shade. His pattern around the house represents him avoiding windows which receive direct sunlight until 2pm, at which time he is apparently ready to warm up. From 2pm to 5pm Roscoe sleeps in the sun room in the direct sunlight. Now that he has warmed up he is ready to wake up. From 5pm until we go to bed at about 10pm Roscoe’s movements represent him moving around the apartment to be wherever the people are. He takes turns in the family room and the kitchen when my boyfriend gets home from work and while we make and eat dinner, until he is ready to lie in his dog bed while we watch TV. Not a bad life. But it was interesting to me to see the thought process that goes behind my dog’s movements. After tracking him over the course of a few days it became clear that his movements are both cyclical and purposeful.

Mapping Mystery. Mapping Fantasy

Taking ideas of maps of the imagination in new directions, the websites this week each dealt with different aspects of mapping worlds which do not exist. “Mapping the Mystery” and the “Dell Map Back Series” articles talk about the role of maps in the literary genre of mystery. Paying particular attention to the Dell novel series which published maps of various scales, from floor plans to national maps, on the back covers of their books, these articles show how maps help the reader conceptualize of the events being described in the novel. This is important in mystery novels in particular because they ask the reader to participate by trying to solve the crime for themselves. Not being personally familiar with the Dell book series, mapping mysteries made me think of the board games “Clue” and “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” Each of these children’s’ games uses maps and mapping principles to help teach problem solving while also being entertaining. These games need mapped visuals to help children conceptualize the fantasy world which they are meant to interact with.

Maps are necessary in mysteries because even though they are fiction, they are meant to be based around reason and fact. But that is not true of the works of sci-fi or fantasy. Because of this, many of these stories open with lines like “once upon a time, in a far off land,” or “in a galaxy far, far away.” The participant is meant to get lost in these fantasy lands which are not governed by reason, and because of this these stories lack a concrete place in not only space, but also in time. However, in the realm of fantasy there are exceptions to this kind of undefined spatial thinking. In the Lord of the Rings series for example, introductory maps are key features. Though you are being taken into an imaginary new world, the author wants you to feel as if you are not in a fantasy land, but rather in something more akin to an alternate reality. This alternate reality principal is certainly what is communicated through the “Fantasy Cartography” video web series which shows people how to create maps for fantasy role playing purposes.