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Why did they put it here?


Black Dog Trackers
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So we're searching for a benchmark, kicking leaves and sand off of cement, investigating bare spots in grass with our shoes, trying to look inconspicuous, and suddenly, there it is!

 

Back 30 or 80 years ago, survey professionals were right here in this very spot with their bucket of wet cement, installing this benchmark.

 

But why exactly here? Except for the obvious church steeples, mountain peaks, coastal points, and standpipes' finials, why were the vast majority of benchmarks placed where they are?

 

Here in the suburbs and cities, the placement of benchmarks seems rather random. Some of the old ones were put in people's front yards, on their houses, etc. A few are in high spots, but not most.

 

Were they located by request from local professional surveyors? Were they strategically placed during some long ago building project? Did they match some integral degree mark back then? Are some a special spot from which several church steeples and watertowers could be seen? Is their apparent randomness merely a series of overlaid logical nets made decades apart? What is so special about these locations?

 

Besides these guesses of mine, does anyone actually know

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BDT

You nailed it with your last guess. The Triangulation Stations, and some of the other horizontal control points, do form a pattern of geometrically balanced triangles stretching across the country, which only becomes visible when they are plotted on a map. In general, they were set on high spots wherever possible, but flat areas and land access issues often made this difficult, in which case a spot was selected that was deemed both convenient and safe. In other words, someplace useful where the marker was likely to survive. Towers were often required to use some of these points where they are not on high spots.

Benchmarks, however do not form any kind of pattern. In the earliest days, they were set in long strings, following along roads, railroads, rivers, or wherever settlement was anticipated. Again, the primary concern was to pick a spot that would be easy to access, where the marker might remain undisturbed for as long as possible.

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