The West’s checkerboard plan, devised by Thomas Jefferson, gets the Instagram treatment with striking satellite imagery.

The “grid”—that latticework that divvies America’s fields, forests, and towns into perfect square-mile sections—was Thomas Jefferson’s brainchild for apportioning Western territories acquired after the Revolutionary War. Yet he never had the pleasure of seeing his plan from its clearest and most mesmerizing view: from above.

But his grid lives on, and aerial and satellite photography offer new ways to see the American checkerboard. A clever Instagram account (aptly named the Jefferson Grid) presents a curated view, one square at a time. The account’s owner, an Israeli photography student, posts snapshots of square-mile demarcations almost daily. Snipped from Google Earth, the images (perusable in “grid view,” naturally) show the diversity of landscapes and land uses that conform to the plan, abstracted from whatever they’re like on the ground.

“Part of what I like about aerial photography is that it is ‘naked’ of the experiences of being at those places,” the account’s owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells CityLab in an email. “But it shows you what makes those places work in a certain way, exposes some of the systems and tools that have been used to create such experiences[.]"

A bit more than a square mile. But a square! Near Tucson, Arizona. #grid #squaremile #aerial #photography #earth #desert #arizona

A photo posted by The Jefferson Grid (@the.jefferson.grid) on

#grid #squaremile #aerial #photography #earth #green #wisconsin #agriculture #instadaily #colorful

A photo posted by The Jefferson Grid (@the.jefferson.grid) on

#grid #squaremile #aerial #photography #earth #green #nevada #desert

A photo posted by The Jefferson Grid (@the.jefferson.grid) on

Near Horizon City, Texas. @tai_pinc #grid #layout #suburbs #desert #yellow #texas #instadaily

A photo posted by The Jefferson Grid (@the.jefferson.grid) on

#grid #squaremile #aerial #photography #earth

A photo posted by The Jefferson Grid (@the.jefferson.grid) on

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in 2016.
    Transportation

    What Uber Did

    In his new book on the “Battle for Uber,” Mike Isaac chronicles the ruthless rise of the ride-hailing company and its founding CEO, Travis Kalanick.

  2. a photo of bikes on a bridge in Amsterdam
    Transportation

    Street by Street, Amsterdam Is Cutting Cars Out of the Picture

    Armed with a street-design tool called the knip, the Dutch capital is slashing car access in the city center, and expanding public transit hours.

  3. A worker walks through a glass-enclosed hallway facing a courtyard at St. Olav's Hospital in Trondheim, Norway.
    Design

    With a Deadline In Place, Norway Warms Up to Universal Design

    A hospital in Trondheim is a laboratory of sorts for the state’s ambitious plan to embrace a different way of creating buildings, transit, and even websites by 2025.

  4. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  5. Transportation

    A Micromobility Experiment in Pittsburgh Aims to Get People Out of Their Cars

    The Pittsburgh Micromobility Collective will create all-in-one mobility hubs near transit stops, to compete with Uber and Lyft and help commuters go car-free.

×