It's hard to imagine, but Manhattan used to be a bunch of open fields and trees. Then, after a small Dutch fort turned into an important trading post, things began to change. And a new map project by the architects and coders at Morphocode lets you visualize the past 300 years of that process.

Urban Layers is a well designed marriage of maps and data. The project pulls from public records in order to show how Manhattan morphed into a cityscape in the years following the Revolutionary War. Like similar projects before it, the map color codes specific time period—the oldest buildings in red and the newest in blue with—to make it easier to see how development spread.

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The Gilded Age marks a huge spike around the turn of the century and then construction activity stayed steady during the early days of the skyscraper. Things seem to level off around the time empty space became scarce.

Try it for yourself! It's a fun way explore Gotham through the ages, and the map is delightfully granular. If you happen to live in Manhattan, there's a good chance you can find out when your building went up. Now that we're in the age of supertalls, the developers might have to come up with some new colors to show how the city always manages to find new boundaries. [FastCo]

Images via Morphocode