It is kind of insane to think about just how fast L.A. grew from a sleepy village surrounded by orchards into a world-class megalopolis, but L.A. is so good at paving over its history that it’s tough to get a good perspective on it.

Recently, the excellent L.A. History tweeted out this link to an intricate map of the rivers and irrigation systems around L.A. circa 1880. The map is one of the earliest of the L.A. basin, created by the first California State Engineer, William Hammond Hall.

downtown Los Angeles, 1880

While there are few place names on the map itself, city grids and railways are clearly marked – and they’ve done the great service of offering up a Google Map overlay with adjustable transparency, so you can easily find your neighborhood even if it’s built on a vast stretch of flatness.

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