A scalable neighborhood map of Boston using Google Maps
Mapping neighborhoods in the City of Boston presents some unique challenges. The growth of the city's land mass, both through annexation and land reclamation, has created any number of ambiguous neighborhood boundaries. While the South End/Roxbury debate is one of the most contentious, there are plenty more where that came from.
Because historically ambiguous borders aren't enough trouble, Boston also suffers from a problem of scale. Any computer screen-sized map that accurately depicts Boston's full expanse from Hyde Park to Eastie will be unable to render much detail on mustard seed-sized Bay Village. Fortunately, Google Maps provides some excellent tools for resolving both these problems.
With so many irreconcilably ambiguous borders, I don't see much point in hashing out "official" neighborhood lines based on historical guesswork. While Boston's immense historical map collection is an invaluable resource, I think popular opinion, and the current geographic, architectural, and economic make up of our city should play an equally important role in delineating where one neighborhood ends and another begins.
If you've spotted an error, or think you've got a valid reason to adjust any of the lines I've drawn, contribute to the wiki I've set up to track changes. My current map is based heavily on Boston Redevelopment Authority materials, and I'm well aware of that agency's unpopularity among the people of Boston. If you're seriously interested, I can also add you as a collaborator on the Google Maps page.
The best thing about this project is that it's almost impossible to screw up. Lines can be drawn, considered, and undrawn as many times as they have to be. This is a great opportunity for the people who actually live here to define the spaces they call home. Let's not let real estate agents and the Herald tell us where we do and don't live.
Because this map was built with the user-generated content feautre in Google Maps, it's very easy to embed in external blogs and web pages. Google Maps' user-generated maps feature also makes it possible to create mashups of this map and any other available in under user-generated content.
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