City’s IT Department Unveils Aerial Maps Documenting Asheville’s Development

Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Asheville Through Time Map

The City of Asheville has unveiled a webpage called Asheville Through Time, showcasing a series of historical, never-seen-before maps made from aerial photographs of the region.

The maps are a walk back in time! The 1951 maps show Asheville without any interstates, Patton Avenue in West Asheville is under construction and  Burton Street community, only beginning to be fractured, is bisected a new two-lane road that will become I-240.

The pictures were taken by the USDA, with the oldest of the aerial photos dating back to 1951.The USDA took millions of photographs of rural, agricultural areas after WWII and also shot many cities in the process. Asheville is no exception.

The photos were tucked away in a cabinet at the USDA Extension Office. When summer Information Technology intern Adam Griffith learned of these maps, he knew he had to digitize them for the public to view. “To make a paper map from aerial photographs, only scissors and tape are needed,” Griffith said. “But to make the map accessible online in digital form is a bit more complicated.”

The project took all summer. Griffith used the maps from 1951, 1963, 1975, and 1987 and slowly pieced them together. The individual photographs were scanned and merged into strips of photos that represent the flight path of the airplane. Once all the strips were in place the real work happened. To make a map, he had to georeference the photo mosaics. Using known locations that are visible in the photographs, Adam used GIS software cross reference sites to make sure that the maps lined up correctly. To complete this task for each of the photo mosaics using locations that have not changed since the 1950s such as Pritchard Park, the Grove Arcade and City Hall.

The webpage is arranged to show all four maps in a grid, which allows for easy comparisons of the same area over the last four decades.

To take a look at these historical maps, click here.