A Bird's-Eye View of Vermont
What can we learn about Vermont history from a panoramic map?
Would you like to travel back in time? By looking at old pictures and photographs, you can see what places and people looked like in the past.
In 1891, the artist Lucien R. Burleigh published a bird’s-eye view of Wilmington. Burleigh stood on the ground and drew pictures of buildings and landmarks(objects or features that stay in one place and can be used as a guide). Then he used his skills as an artist to draw the whole town from the perspective(point of view) of a bird flying in the air.
These types of maps, also called panoramic(showing a view of a wide area) maps, show many details of the town. Can you find the railroad tracks or the river? Look for clues like a train or bridges to locate landmarks.
The list on the bottom of the map is a key for the numbers on some of the buildings. Can you find number 5, the public school? It’s on South River Street next to number 2, the Universalist Church. What types of businesses can you find in Wilmington in 1891?
The map shows Wilmington had a dentist and two doctors. It had stores that sold groceries, hardware, lumber, and grain. There were factories that made carriages and stoves. Wilmington also had a post office, a school, and several churches. The town had a lot of services for the people who lived there.
But the map does not show people in the town. Look at this photograph of Wilmington in 1900. People are watching the parade cross the bridge on Main Street. The photographer was probably standing on the porch of the building marked number 12 on the map.
Imagine you are one of the people in the photograph. What was it like to watch the parade on August 17, 1900? What sounds would you hear? What scents would you smell? What colors would you see?
Looking at historic sources like a map and photograph together helps historians learn about Vermont history. What other questions could you ask about the town?
Thinking About History
Historians ask questions to think deeply about history.
Panoramic maps often listed the names of public buildings, like schools and churches. The maps also showed locations of businesses in the town. Are these historic documents maps? Or advertisements? Or both?
Follow the links below to explore related topics.
Explore more panoramic maps of Vermont
Look at a current online map of Wilmington. How has the town changed since 1891? How has it stayed the same?
Learn more about illustrated maps of Vermont
Copy and paste this citation to show where you did your research.
Vermont Historical Society. "A Bird's-Eye View of Vermont." Vermont History Explorer. Accessed March 28, 2023. https://vermonthistoryexplorer.org/a-birdseye-view-of-vermont