Human beings have drawn maps for thousands of years, as part of the existential effort to define our place in the universe, and the pragmatic one of laying claim to space.
Torie Partridge understands. You may have come across one of her hand-drawn D.C. neighborhood art maps at a festival. You can find them at Partridge’s boutique design firm, Cherry Blossom Creative (2128 Eighth St. NW), located in the Atlantic Plumbing building in the Shaw area. Its retail space, the Workshop, also offers tools of the trade, some made by local creative types. Think items such as specialized stationery, pens and sketch pads.
Partridge, a Philadelphia native, has designed about 30 area maps so far, Brookland, Eckington and Navy Yard among them. The goal is to map all of the city’s more than 130 neighborhoods. Young people arriving in the District in recent years “get the most intense about their neighborhood,” Partridge says. “They want to feel a sense of community [and] ownership.”
“Oh my God, there’s my house!” she says, repeating what she’s often heard. In a city in transition — where gentrification is thriving — new maps of old ground can be viewed through varied lenses. Sometimes, she says, her maps are goodbye gifts.
Washington has had its share of map drama. There was no good city map until the Civil War, says J.D. Dickey, author of “Empire of Mud: The Secret History of Washington, DC.” And George Washington, Dickey notes, fired city planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant after a land dispute. An angry L’Enfant walked away with his map. Andrew Ellicott, who with Benjamin Banneker had surveyed the area, redrew the map from memory.
Partridge’s passion for art began in high school, but life landed her in Petworth and working in defense. She even spent time in Iraq. By 2011 she was back and found herself making an art map for Petworth’s Ace Hardware store. By 2012 she had a firm and was picking up clients.
Partridge’s maps are varied. The Anacostia one has “tons of green” for the leafy landscape. Her Glover Park map’s floral tones suggest colorful gardens. And her purview may be expanding. She’s gotten requests from Northern Virginia areas such as Rosslyn and Clarendon. Everyone, it seems, likes to know where they are.