For the love of Maps...

Industry Observer with ARFCO Media

For the love of Maps...

I have loved maps since I was a half-pint. Not that I’m all that tall now, but back when I was 8 or so to about 12, I remember being enamored by them. I was one of those kids that ordered weather maps from the back page ads in Boys' Life Magazine.

We often went to the local library during that time and I was fascinated to look over maps by early explorers of the Northwest like Lewis & Clark, Captain Vancouver and Cook, etc.

Out of that experience I made maps about our adventures in the woods across the street from our home. I detailed the trails, where our tree houses were, where our rafts were hidden at the big pond, where our stashes of pop, candy, and tools were kept, and where our super secret emergency meeting place was (by the old abandoned mining shaft deep in the blackberry thickets) just in case we got into trouble with the railroad detectives because we were messing around where we didn't belong down by the tracks.

Right out of the movie American Graffiti, growing up in our little neighborhood of Earlington, on the west side of Renton, it was still rural. We didn’t have but a couple of street lights and no sidewalks. In fact, along side our streets were open ditches and neighbors raised rabbits and chickens.

Who would of thought years later I’d work for a title company? It wasn’t long before I ended up in customer service and worked with maps all day long. I loved it.

One of the things that took me years to appreciate was how well King County maps were done. The KC Assessor’s maps were beautifully detailed and as my local knowledge grew to other counties I learned how special and unique that was.

I'm very familiar with the KC Assessor's map below. I did a lot of research on portions of it for a client several years ago who wanted to develop it. Property can appear to be so simple and obvious when your standing on it, yet when researching it you can find yourself in a quagmire trying to sort out the changes and legal descriptions as title passed from owner to owner over the years.

King County Assessor's Map - SE 84th Way and Coal Creek Parkway, Newcastle WA

On the left 3rd is a relatively newer plat, a division of Olympus, in Newcastle, Washington (mid 80’s to mid 90’s). Yet note within that space KC LLA and a number following. That means a King County Lot Line Adjustment was recorded. Below that, note the diamond shape. That stands for a Government Lot and it translates to some kind of anomaly existed either because prior surveys weren't accurate or terrain made it impossible to determine.

Just to the right you see the darker parallel lines running vertical with “pipe line” in between. This is a major water pipeline that runs through this area underground and then underwater in Lake Washington to supply fresh water to Mercer Island.

Note the overlapping dark lines that curve to the right with “Pacific Coast”... This is just one of the many old abandoned railroad right of ways in the area that once served the Newcastle coal mines. Then there’s the “NC BLA” which is a City of Newcastle boundary line adjustment, and if you’ll notice SE 84th Way and on the very right (Newcastle Parkway) you’ll find notes “not to scale”. That translates to these roads are so old and their exact locations changed so many times over the years by everything from weather, spoken agreement, land barons, use by horse and buggy and the consequences of terrain and a path of least resistance for ingress and egress, to now being within an incorporated modern city and becoming a major arterial thoroughfare that it’s boundaries have been determined, "it is what it is because it is where it is."

For the love of Maps. To the initiated, they tell quite a story.

Posted by

René Fabre

"Where there's conversation, there's opportunity."

Please Note - The views expressed herein reflect only the individual’s personal views and are not the views of the author’s employer.

The Blackberry Chronicles, a blog by Rene Fabre and his travels around the Greater Pacific Northwest and beyond. Connect w/ Rene Fabre on Google+. Rene Fabre on Twitter. Rene Fabre writes reviews on Yelp. Rene Fabre on The Audiorium YouTube Channel by Rene Fabre. Rene Fabre loves digital photography and here are his shares on Flickr. Rene Fabre is a musician and composer and shares some of his orginal music and recordings on Soundcloud. Rene Fabre shares his interests on Pinterest.

Comments (11)

Fernando Herboso - Associate Broker MD, & VA
Maxus Realty Group of Samson Properties - Clarksburg, MD
301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA

You love maps as much as I love the challenge of listing homes. . good for you! 

Feb 10, 2012 11:57 PM
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Rene. What a wonderful and interesting post. Your love of maps and the story you tell is terrific.

Feb 11, 2012 12:58 AM
John McCormack, CRS
Albuquerque Homes Realty - Albuquerque, NM
Honesty, Integrity, Results, Experienced. HIRE Me!

I too love maps while my wife can't wrap her mind around that fact.  Maybe it's a Venus / Mars thing? 

Feb 11, 2012 01:40 AM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Hi Fernando... maybe in another time I was a cartographer. Thanks...

Feb 11, 2012 04:02 AM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Sheila: Thanks, and thank you for your kind comments. 

John: I think you're right on about the Venus / Mars thing... Back then the only toy I had that was electric was my Lionel Train set... So I wasn't preoccupied with games and such.

Feb 11, 2012 04:06 AM
Greg Saffell
Tucson, AZ
Real Estate Professional Tucson, Oro Valley AZ

Rene, many moons ago I worked for a title company in California. I was a draftsman in the engineering department working with maps and doing plot plans. This was long before things were computerized so we referenced the old voluminous map archives and plotted using boundary lines and coordinates. I'm glad I had the experience of doing it the old fashion way.
Thanks for reminding me of all of that! 


Feb 11, 2012 04:07 AM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Hi Greg... I started in 1984 so maps were still drawn by hand. The bleeding edge technology we had then was microfiche reader printers. We had quite an archive of old maps and of course, the Kroll Books. I remember some of the oldtimers could sit down with a blank sheet of paper, read the metes and bound legal description, and draw it out for you. 

Feb 11, 2012 04:29 AM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

Your interest in maps is interesting because I share that fascination with them.  However, there was one little map that ran me astray.  It was a map of the area from Seattle to Leavenworth Washington.  It didn't show anything east of Leavenworth, and I assumed that Leavenworth was a suburb of Seattle.  About 4 hours later I arrived in Leavenworth, on what I imagined would be a 15 or 20 minute trip.  That was back in 1994.

Feb 11, 2012 12:47 PM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Myrl: Was it one of those maps that had the kind of S squigle that basically said here's Seattle, here's Leavenworth (and not much of anything inbetween)... My friend Rob Lowe in Portland is a collector of old maps. I have copies, but he has some really beautiful original maps of areas in Oregon. 

I use to get lost all the time when I lived in Oakland. Especially driving at night when I couldn't see the Bay to get my berings. Back in the early 80's with no cellphone GPS and no Google maps. And now, more times than I can count when you brokers talk about a location or a listing I jump on Google and go to street view and take a look around.

Feb 11, 2012 01:03 PM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

Quite interesting Rene.  It wasn't so easy to follow what you were saying only becaue of the map wasn't as clear (to me anyway).  But what a thorough explanation and I love the ending . . . it it what it is because of where it is == not much one can do about it, in other words.  LOL

Feb 11, 2012 03:24 PM
Rene Fabre
ARFCO Media - Renton, WA
Practicing Philosophical Eclectic of the Arts

Hi Carla: Thanks. I know it's a little hard to read. If you click on the map though, it will take you my picasa folder and you can view it in a larger format.

Feb 12, 2012 03:14 AM