1. See proximity to other cities
2. See Proximity to Regions
3. See the physical environment
(Lansing, Ohio and Lansing, Michigan are mapped at the same scale. The two communities appear very different in these topographic maps because Lansing, Ohio consists of very few buildings nestled within steep hills. Lansing, Michigan is a large city spread over flat ground.)
4. See Historical Information
County plat books will show the names of landowners for larger parcels (usually farms). This map shows the farms that used to exist around the intersections of Trowbridge and Mt. Hope which are now owned by Michigan State University.
Below you see another style of land ownership map, this one from Clinton County, New York.