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6 Cool, Chocolate-Scented, or Otherwise Interesting Maps of Chicago

Sure, maps can tell us how to get where we’re going and where we are now, and that’s great. But maps can also be much more than highways and intersections—they can surprise and intrigue, anger and educate. Maps can show not only the ins and outs of a place, but of their people as well. And if you think you completely know a city, you might be looking at the wrong map. Here are a few maps that might make you look at Chicago a little differently.

1. The Daily Chicago Chocolate Smell Map

Sometimes, the Windy City’s wind smells like chocolate. This is thanks to the Blommer Chocolate factory—which has been operating in downtown Chicago since 1939—blessing the air with a glorious smell that’s somewhere between hot cocoa and slightly burnt brownies. With the Daily Chicago Chocolate Smell map, you can get day-to-day updates on the spread of the aroma based on the surrounding weather patterns and Smell Reports from committed citizens. 

2. An Interactive Before-and-After

About 143 Octobers ago, the Great Chicago Fire ended its two-day siege on the city, leaving in its wake at least 300 dead, 100,000 homeless, and several million dollars worth of property destroyed. All in all, the fire leveled about 3.3 square miles of Chicago, leaving an unforgettable mark on the city both in the resilience of its citizens and the planning and reorganizing of the new metropolis that would spring from the ashes. To truly understand how the Great Fire—and subsequent rebuilding—shaped the Chicago we know today, one only has to look at this cool interactive map, courtesy of the Smithsonian. 

3. A Cautionary, Cartoonish Gangland Map

“A Map of Chicago's gangland from authentic sources: designed to inculcate the most important principles of piety and virtue in young persons, and graphically portray the evils and sin of large cities, 1931.” Though ostensibly a stern lesson to keep kids out of dangerous ‘hoods in mobster-era Chicago, this restored 1930’s map gives a hilariously detailed look at the gangland, including such tidbits as “Death Corner,” just off the North Branch of the Chicago river and situated, ominously, between Little Italy, Little Sicily, and famed Irish boss Dion O’Banion’s “district.” Other points of interest: On the South Side, a little cartoon citadel of the University of Chicago near the lake, where a top-hatted man exclaims “My my, this won’t do—the water’s wet!” just northeast of a “Filling Station (Not Gas).”

4. The Pothole Time-Lapse

Winters in the Windy City are harsh, and every year its streets take a beating, leaving Chicago with a rash of potholes that the city can barely keep up with. To illustrate the sheer scope of Chicago’s pothole problem, a user on the data-mapping site Cartodb created this time-lapse of all of Chicago’s reported potholes (the yellow dots) over the past year. It may seem mundane, but when you see the way the city essentially becomes one giant pothole in February, you’ll understand the true toll of a Chicago winter.

5. Cubsland and Soxland

Chicago’s baseball culture is a fascinating one, wherein the many legends, scandals, and marketing disasters between the city’s two professional teams might just outnumber winning seasons. But in order to delve into the vast mythology surrounding Chicago baseball, you must first get a grasp on the Midwest’s quintessential crosstown rivalry, that of the north side Cubs and south side White Sox. Though they compete in two different leagues, the fans are fierce and teams divisive. So if you’re worried you might be in enemy territory, this map will be useful. It roughly outlines the reign of each team’s fan base: White Sox supporters are typically born and bred within the city limits, heavily on the southern side, while Cubs fans generally reside in the northern suburbs and surrounding Illinois and Indiana. If you zoom out, you can also get a look at the fan territories for teams across the country. 

6. Neighborhood Name-calling

It’s often said that Chicago is a city of neighborhoods—over 200 of them, all with a unique flavor, feel, and personality. Often, these quirks turn into stereotypes which are then hurled between neighborhoods like bickering siblings. That’s exactly what’s illustrated in this playful map by Justin Kaufman for Time Out Chicago: Uptown says to college bar-heavy Lakeview “Go back to Purdue”; Albany Park calls the gentrified Lincoln Square “Sellouts,” while Lincoln Square shoots back, “You’re just jealous.” The suburbs, in keeping with the family dynamic, are completely ignored.

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Dan Bell
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Design
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.

[h/t Kottke.org]

All images by Dan Bell

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Leon Neal, Getty Images
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infographics
The Best and Worst States for Online Dating, Mapped
 Leon Neal, Getty Images
Leon Neal, Getty Images

If your online dating experience is more awkward than romantic, maybe you have geography to blame. An AT&T retailer called All Home Connections recently crunched some data on the online dating landscape, and let's just say we hope you aren’t trying to Tinder in New Mexico.

The southwestern state turns out to be one of the worst for online dating prospects, at least according to this methodology, which looked at dating opportunities, demographics, and safety. It took into account the state’s percentage of singles and gender balance, along with things like unemployment rate and median earnings, percentage of people with smartphones, data on whether or not people there say they are even interested in online dating, and the violent crime rate.

A map of the U.S. with states colored on a gradient from red to white to show online dating prospects
All Home Connections

According to this data, if you want to find love online, you should head to the Northeast: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine topped the list. That may not be surprising considering the data that went into the calculation—those states have some of the highest incomes in the U.S., and fairly high rates of educational attainment.

By contrast, the lowest states on the list, New Mexico and Arkansas, both come out looking pretty bad by those standards. So if you’re not looking for a rich spouse with a bachelor’s degree, you might not necessarily agree with some of rankings. (Although those states also have some of the highest violent crime rates, so you might want to do a little extra online sleuthing to background check your dates before you meet up there.)

Here are the 10 best states for online dating, according to the data:

1. New Hampshire
2. Massachusetts
3. Rhode Island
4. Connecticut
5. Maine
6. North Dakota
7. Washington
8. Minnesota
9. New York
10. New Jersey

And these are the 10 worst:

1. Arkansas
2. New Mexico
3. Mississippi
4. Louisiana
5. South Carolina
6. Tennessee
7. Alabama
8. Oklahoma
9. Texas
10. Nevada

For those still struggling to find a Valentine, the map might be a little comforting, in a way. If you’re not finding the love of your life on Tinder in the South, know that you might not be the only one struggling. It’s not you; it’s the state.

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