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 brownstone in Brooklyn, where Airbnb growth has been particularly strong in recent years.
    Life

    What Airbnb Did to New York City

    Airbnb’s effects on the city’s housing market have been dramatic, a report suggests. And other cities could soon see the same pattern.

  2. Design

    Will Copenhagen’s Eco-Friendly Man-Made Islands Pay Off?

    The Danish capital is expanding its land mass and creating climate resiliency. But is it sustainable?

  3. A photo of a Family Mart convenience store in Japan.
    Life

    The Language Debate Inside Japan's Convenience Stores

    Throughout Japan, store clerks and other service industry workers are trained to use the elaborate honorific speech called “manual keigo.” But change is coming.

  4. A photo of Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct
    Transportation

    As an Elevated Highway Closes, Seattle Braces for Traffic Hell

    By closing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle ushers in a period of short-term commuter pain for long-term waterfront redevelopment gain.

  5. Two men plant a young tree in a lot in Detroit.
    Environment

    Why Detroit Residents Pushed Back Against Tree-Planting

    Detroiters were refusing city-sponsored “free trees.” A researcher found out the problem: She was the first person to ask them if they wanted them.