Presentation: A History of Chicagoland in Maps

Presentation: A History of Chicagoland in Maps

Donald Smith




Tuesday, May 14, 2023


Riverside Public Library




Since Frederick Law Olmsted studied land surveying as a young man and personally surveyed the terrain that would become Riverside, it is fitting that the Olmsted Society welcomes Donald and Tanya Smith of Greeley-Howard-Norlin & Smith, land surveyors and map makers. The Smiths will present A History of Chicagoland in Maps at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, May 14 at the Riverside Public Library. A reservation is required at The Riverside Public Library.

The Smith’s wide-ranging presentation will span time from the founding of the U.S. through the 20th Century. Learn about:
The U.S. Government’s plan to sell land to pay off Revolutionary War debt and Thomas Jefferson’s idea to divide the country into uniform townships.
Company founder Samuel Greeley serving as an expert witness for Abraham Lincoln in two court cases.
The company’s role in rebuilding the city after the Great Chicago Fire.
Owner Earl Smith’s survey work on the Prudential Building and the lawsuit related to it.
Current owner Don Smith’s involvement with the Sears Tower and his encounters with FBI agents in his work as a surveyor
The Smiths will also bring antique surveying instruments and a number of historical maps and atlases — including a 1891 real estate advertisement map of Riverside.

Donald and Tanya Smith, owners of the land surveying & map making company Greeley-Howard-Norlin & Smith, own, preserve, protect and maintain a large collection of historical documents dating back to the early 1800s. Don and Tanya have invested immense amounts of their time, energy, money and care into the organization and research of the gathered historical materials which include 190 map atlases and more than 400,000 hand-drawn maps and plats dating from 1820 to 1990.

In the 1950s, when Donald Smith was just nine years old, his father Earl Smith was already teaching and involving him in land surveying. Yet, the Smith family have been land surveyors long before that. In fact, their business was founded in 1854 by Donald’s great-great-great uncle, Samuel Greeley.

The Smiths and the story of their company with it’s vast collection of historical materials were featured in a Daily Southtown article, Landmarks: A 200-year archive of maps faces uncertain future as 5-generation run of Chicago surveyors nears end.