West Philadelphia Landscape Project
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Digital Database 1988-1996
WPLP pioneered digital mapping of topography, vacant land, and the urban watershed in the 1980s and 1990s. This version the WPLP digital database has not been updated since 1996, when the City of Philadelphia developed its own digital database.


WPLP created the digital database during 1988-1991 as part of the West Philadelphia Landscape Plan and Greening Project. Between 1994 and 1996, we added new data and a new menu system for overlaying maps of different information. Though shown here as static maps, the original data could be manipulated and overlaid to produce new maps at any desired scale, of any specific area within the project boundary.

The West Philadelphia Digital Database ran on a personal computer and made information and analytical tools once available only to governmental agencies and large institutions accessible to individuals and small groups. At the time, this was a revolutionary development. Now we take it for granted that once a digital database is set up, it can be shared by many different online users. This was not the case in 1991, when the World Wide Web was in its infancy. The first commercial web browser did not appear until 1994.

Digital Database Demonstration

This demonstration shows how the digital database worked in 1991. The sequence of images explores the relationship between vacant land and the buried floodplain of Mill Creek. The database resided on a desktop computer. It was not online, since the first website did not appear until later that year, and the Web did not yet permit interactive mapping. See the demonstration on the 1997 WPLP website.

The Digital Database: Atlas and Guide

This 1996 report describes the digital database and its uses and provides an introduction to West Philadelphia through maps from the 1990s.Read the guide.


The maps below are screenshots from the original database, with explanatory text from 1996.

Base Maps
Land Use
Vacant Land & Land Cover
Block Types
Sewers & Sewer Boundaries
Demographic Information (1980 Census)