Wednesday, February 1, 2012
If you own a city street map, you're likely to have had it for a good few years. You won't replace it unless it gets lost. You'll probably have a Hagstrom. We have the 5 Borough Pocket Atlas (easier for carrying around), & the larger Large Type atlas, which I like to sit & pore over at home. I love maps, & though I'm too cheap, I've always coveted one of those NYC wall maps you see in car service offices. I could look at them for hours. Though my knowledge of city geography is infinitely better than it was in 1984, when I first came here, it's still very patchy, & I like trying to figure how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. The Hagstrom atlas can be frustrating (why is the place you're looking for always at the point where the pages mis-align?) but it's always exciting to look at. I might set out to find a particular address, but I always stay for more. I love the color coding (those pink psychiatric institutions whose names are bandied around at work) & the tiny isles around the city: Chimney Sweeps Islands, the East & North Nonations, Cuban Lodge & Big Tam. I like looking at old neighborhood names (do people use Dutch Kills anymore in Queens?) & just seeing the name Spuyten Duyvil makes me giddy. It's the Hoyt/Schermerhorn of the NYC map world. Hagstrom is one big romance.
Anyway, this week I had to get several Hagstroms for work, & though I couldn't get them in a regular bookstore (only some crappy poorly printed replacement), I was pretty sure I'd find them at the Hagstrom store, over on West 43rd, & I was looking forward to an hour or so in there, trying to persuade myself to finally buy the damn wall map, & listening to the manager chivvy the clerks around. Checking for store hours, I found that Hagstrom ("mapping your area since 1916") closed shop in July of 2010. Too late, too late, & I never even noticed its demise. Just like regular books, street maps are now sad, out-of-date items. You can still order Hagstrom 5 Boroughs at McMaps (hmm) online at a regular price, but otherwise they're hard to find. Amazon & B&N don't even sell copies themselves online, only listing them through dealers. Last I looked they had just one copy under $125.