Examine a Historical GIS Project

Examine in detail at least one historical GIS project (e.g., HyperCities, Digital Harlem, Mapping the Republic of Letters, Virtual Jamestown) On your blog, discuss how this project contributes to historical scholarship

Reviewed: “Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America,” available at https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/redlining/#loc=11/41.3030/-72.9225&opacity=0.8&city=new-haven-ct&area=B6&adimage=3/35/-120

The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) was a federal agency set up in the 1930s in response to the impact of the Great Depression on home owners and specifically on home mortgages. The goal was to help with refinancing mortgages in default. The agency granted loans under revised terms, but in the process also did an assessment of the perceived level of risk, marked on neighborhood-by-neighborhood maps, in several dozen cities across the country. In Connecticut, they assessed East Hartford, New Haven and Darien/Stamford/New Canaan. Using consistent (but by today’s terms inappropriate) assessment terminology, they labeled neighborhood maps in each city by: Green = “Best”; Blue = “Still Desirable”; Yellow = “Definitely Declining”; and Red = “Hazardous.”

The result was a bias towards refinancing mortgages in the “Best” and “Still Desirable” areas, and shying away from doing so in the Definitely Declining and Hazardous areas. This was one of the first examples of “redlining,” that is, of refusing to assist in “redlined” neighborhoods, based in large part upon the racial and ethnic makeup of the neighborhood community.

This GIS project is an expansion of a similar project that focused only on HOLC activities in Richmond Virginia. The information available at this website, including most importantly the color-coded neighborhood maps, provides a visual perspective on the issue of redlining in home mortgage refinancing during the New Deal.

In New Britain, for example, 19% was labeled Green, 43% was labeled Blue, 30% was labeled Yellow and 8% was labeled Red. And viewing the map shows that the Red neighborhoods were at the core of the city, surrounded by Yellow neighborhoods; the Blue and Green areas were outside of the city core. The New Haven map shows the same relative location of neighborhoods, but with a much larger percentage marked as Yellow (56%) or Red (20%). If you click on the New Haven neighborhoods themselves, you see the completed Area Description. The Red area was inhabited by 90% mixed foreign-born and 5% negroes. The Remarks section says: “Pride of ownership is entirely lacking. Absence of market plus vandalism has resulted in some demolition.”


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