Fairmount Park: A New Map From An Old Style

March 18, 2014 |  by  |  Makin' It  |  , , ,

 

Artist Kim Alsbrooks laments with her calico kitten Pumpkin on the demise of the tiger-striped Zoo Balloon | Photo: Bradley Maule

Artist Kim Alsbrooks laments with her calico kitten Pumpkin on the demise of the tiger-striped Zoo Balloon | Photo: Bradley Maule

In the 1990s, Kim Alsbrooks lived in Powelton Village, where she spent many an afternoon “goofing off” and riding her bike in nearby Fairmount Park. Overturning as many corners of the park as she could, she carried with her a circa-1970s map of the park, a Bicentennial era interpretation with insets of CAD-generated Fairmount Park historic houses and other park features. When she left to return home to Charleston, South Carolina, she purged a number of things, including this map.

Alsbrooks used a facsimile of the map she used to own, taped together from sections xeroxed at the Free Library, as a source on which she made her own notes | Photo: Bradley Maule

Alsbrooks used a facsimile of the map she used to own, taped together from sections xeroxed at the Free Library, as a source on which she made her own notes | Photo: Bradley Maule

When she moved back to Philadelphia in 2007, Alsbrooks was without a map. Dissatisfied with her options, she elected to put her artistic background to scientific work and make her own. She doesn’t mince words in speaking of her vision. “Fuck that Mapquest stuff,” she declares. “Those maps are all about cars.”

The 52-year-old’s South Philadelphia home is stuffed with gorgeous paintings, some her own and some from fellow artists with whom she’s traded works. An artist represented locally by Snyderman Gallery, Alsbrooks’ painting extends from canvas to wall—she’s done work with the Mural Arts Program—to whole building. Back in Charleston, whose antebellum downtown is its central draw, she worked in historic restoration; her late brother was a restorative carpenter. Here in Philly, her Luxe Painting company has colored homes of new construction and revived the flair of older ones for the better part of two decades.

Within this professional environment, she developed a deep rooted appreciation for historic preservation and attention to detail. Drawing inspiration from classical maps such as one of 16th Century Portugal and a number of maps found in two books, Tony Campbell’s Early Maps (1981) and Kris Harzinski’s From Here to There (a collection of hand drawn maps)—as well as a xeroxed copy of the 70s original she tracked down at the Central Branch of the Free Library—she started putting pen to paper. Or rather, she put paint to mylar, with gouache and her own photos from the park embellishing landmarks from The Thinker (the Parkway was designed to be the direct link between downtown and Fairmount Park, after all) to the Strawberry Mansion Bridge, from Sedgley Woods disc golf course to the Mann Center. The result, 18 months in the making, is a mixed media map worthy of your wall or your pocket.

You gonna eat that cannoli? Kim Alsbrooks at home in South Philly | Photo: Bradley Maule

You gonna eat that cannoli? Kim Alsbrooks at home in South Philly | Photo: Bradley Maule

Currently, Alsbrooks has made the map available as a signed print, and has plans for a companion pocket map to be produced soon. With the fragile original sprawled out on the floor, she points out the bike lanes she’s featured prominently while her tiny calico kitten Pumpkin darts across it. When I asked her where the mountain bike trails are, such as those near Belmont Plateau, she replies, “dude, I have a Raleigh road bike.”

But more to the point, she reasons, “there’s only so much room on a map—you have to figure out what you can and can’t include. I feel fine leaving out some things and letting people discover parts of the park on their own.”

* * *

For more info, visit the web site Kim Alsbrooks has created for the map project HERE.

About the author

Bradley Maule is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and the creator of Philly Skyline. He's a native of Tyrone, Pennsylvania, and he's hung his hat in Shippensburg, Germantown, G-Ho, Fishtown, Portland OR, Brewerytown, and now Mt. Airy. He just can't get into Twitter, but he's way into Instagram @mauleofamerica.



3 Comments


  1. Couldn’t someone Photoshop out the light switch & waste basket? Sloppy, dude, sloppy

    • The Big Bang Theory was just proven. Nothing matters. Especially light switches and garbage cans that are real and in everyone’s home.

  2. Jehoshaphat Rudd

    Love this handmade map. Way more accurate the city map.

    You can buy the map here:

    http://fairmountparkmap.simdif.com/story_of_the_map.html

Recent Posts
A Monumental Shift At Dilworth Park

A Monumental Shift At Dilworth Park

October 24, 2014  |  Vantage

Olin's design for Dilworth Park gives Philadelphia what it has long struggled for: a suitably grand approach to the monumental City Hall, says Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin. Here's his review of the park, now essentially complete > more

Kenney To Hist Commission: Put Buildings On Register, Get More Funding

Kenney To Hist Commission: Put Buildings On Register, Get More Funding

October 24, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Firm would simply recoup money through ads, Councilman Kenney wants to bolster Historical Commission, Councilman Henon undaunted by Planning Commission’s non-recommendation for Mayfair overlay, and Guinn hard at work on latest mural > more

Bill Seeks To Preempt Tragedy With Better Data For Firefighters

Bill Seeks To Preempt Tragedy With Better Data For Firefighters

October 23, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Blueprint reconnaissance for firefighter safety, improvements to the Burk Mansion, City Council considers beautification of vacant land by former convicts, and more inaction on PGW sale > more

Why The Flying Saucer Deserves Your LOVE

Why The Flying Saucer Deserves Your LOVE

October 22, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Preservation Alliance calls iconic LOVE Park building a “place to save,” zoning changes introduced for parts of North Philly, another firm for the Navy Yard, and a sinking pharmacy in South Philly > more

The Missing Namesake Of North Philly's Lost Necropolis

The Missing Namesake Of North Philly’s Lost Necropolis

October 21, 2014  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Next up in our Halloween cemetery series: Harry K hits the tomes looking for the missing obelisk of Monument Cemetery. Is it sitting in a gravestone dumping ground at the foot of the Betsy Ross Bridge? Its fate may be forever unknown > more

Of Birds And Drinking Water

Of Birds And Drinking Water

October 21, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Inside the East Park Reservoir, Temple students adopting blocks, UCD to start early on 40th Street plaza, and Jewish life gets a boost at Penn > more