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Archaeology from above
January 11, 2011 8:15 AM   Subscribe

HistoricAerials.com contains a surprisingly large database of aerial photography dating back to the dawn of aviation, with a Google-Maps-like interface.

Often times the pictures tell a dramatic story. In one such example, Washington, DC decided in the 1950s that the city's residents should all live in tiny skyscrapers, and razed an entire quadrant of the city in anticipation of that goal. Can you spot any similar stories in your city?
posted by schmod (15 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fascinating to see what Boston's old West End and Scollay Square looked like before they were razed. Thanks!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:38 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, fantastic dataset and nice to see it all combined in one interface. Shame it's so slow and the UI is a bit awkward.

There's a huge wealth of georeferenced data just coming online now. We're a long way from the bad old days of GIS, thanks in large part to Google Maps and related mapping technology. What's missing is a single catalog / search engine for all publically available georeferenced data, instead we have a lot of silos. In a couple of years I hope it will be easy to find and combine all sorts of geographic data. One company to watch in this space is SimpleGeo.
posted by Nelson at 8:44 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Admiral Haddock -- that is *exactly* what I was going to go look at. :) The site's pretty slow at the moment, presumably from a pile of mefites all looking at it.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:52 AM on January 11, 2011


Why does it keep saying I should install Silverlight? Is there really anything that important that requires it?
posted by crapmatic at 9:03 AM on January 11, 2011


Very cool. In DC, it was weird seeing the open space where RFK stadium is now, and the active runways and parked aircraft at Bolling Air Force Base.
posted by exogenous at 9:04 AM on January 11, 2011


I've always been fond of this one.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:14 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


In DC, it was weird seeing the open space where RFK stadium is now

One can only hope for a similar future. I don't think there's a single DC resident (or tenant of RFK Stadium for that matter) who actually likes RFK Stadium. It's uniformly awful, and thanks to the peculiarity of the stadium's ownership/operation, nobody's really sure who has the authority to tear it down, who would pay for it, and who would own the land afterward. One of our councilmembers briefly toted the idea of bringing the Redskins back to DC, which, despite the tax revenue it would bring, was almost instantly shot down. In a political climate where any proposed stadium inevitably gets built with public funds, it's pretty remarkable that DC won't even consider working with Dan Snyder (and goes to further prove that Dan Snyder is the Silver Surfer of football owners and businessmen -- he destroys everything he touches, but is somehow still unbelievably wealthy. I'm getting offtopic here, aren't I?)

There are a variety of sites that have documented America's many attempts at 1960s-style urban renewal. James Lileks has a good one about Minneapolis. (Pretty sure there's a similar site out there that documents a few other midwest cities that got hit with the brutalist wrecking ball. It was not uncommon for entire downtowns to have been simply wiped off of the map.)
posted by schmod at 9:38 AM on January 11, 2011


Disneyland, 1953
posted by DU at 9:47 AM on January 11, 2011


I don't think there's a single DC resident (or tenant of RFK Stadium for that matter) who actually likes RFK Stadium.

I preferred RFK to the new baseball stadium, so I guess that means I like it. The new stadium has higher prices and generally shittier beer than RFK had (unless one treks to the Red Porch to pay extreme prices), while providing what feel like narrower seats. I miss how our section of RFK stadium would bounce in time with a cheering crowd. Tom Boswell's farewell to RFK is a nice read.
posted by exogenous at 10:28 AM on January 11, 2011


I'm trying to decide whether the site is pimping "Your ad on this watermark" or Silverlight. Or both.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:41 AM on January 11, 2011


Google should be able to do this. Eventually they should also use the images they've been collecting for Street View to allow you to see a neighborhood change through time from ground level.

Theoretically, Google should be able to give you driving directions from your house in 2011 to your friend's house in 1960, in case you needed to know.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:20 PM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Pretty cool, thanks.
posted by marxchivist at 2:51 PM on January 11, 2011


Theoretically, Google should be able to give you driving directions from your house in 2011 to your friend's house in 1960, in case you needed to know.

1. Accelerate to 88mph......
posted by schmod at 7:27 PM on January 11, 2011


My favorite aerial photographer is George Gerster. I borrowed one of his books from the library and got my mind blown (again) by the countless abandoned sites, hundreds and thousands of years old, as seen from rented airplanes for over 40 years. (More)
posted by Twang at 7:41 PM on January 11, 2011


with a Google-Maps-like interface

...except a lot slower. Still very cool though.
posted by Doohickie at 8:22 AM on January 12, 2011


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