Seeing a Landmark If You Are Not There

Most people know that Google Maps includes Street View – they have vehicles mounted with cameras that cruise the streets taking photos every few feet. That’s a LOT of territory to cover, so at this point a portion of these images are likely to be several years old. But unless there has been major reconstruction in an area these photos are still a good way to actually see what a location looks like before you drive there.

Last week I used this feature to find something a friend mentioned in her blog, but regretted that at the time she had not taken a photo to post. DHC is currently on tour with a band. She had taken a walk near her show’s venue and seen a telephone pole around which someone had placed landscaping stones and planted a bush. This inspired her to a philosophical blog post about the benefits of containing one’s time/energy to focus on and accomplish projects.

But she had this epiphany after returning from her walk, so had not thought to take a photo of the inspirational telephone pole garden. She knew approximately where she had walked – perhaps Prince St. in Alexandria VA – and asked her readers if anyone knew about that pole and could post a photo for her.

I took that as a challenge to use Google Maps Street View to virtually search the length of that street (since I’m in Boston) for that pole. Since I had no idea whether the garden arrangement had existed at the time Google’s vehicle cruised that street, or if it did whether a car had been parked in front of it, or if Google had cruised by in winter, etc. I knew it was a longshot. What I did:

1. Searched Prince St Alexandria VA in Google Maps.

2. Clicked and dragged the little “human” figure from the top of the zoom bar to the beginning of the street on the map.

3. This opened up Street View photos. I then aligned the view to let me see both sides of the street as I “moved” up it, and zoomed in on any likely-looking poles.

And I DID find it! DHC confirmed it was indeed the pole. The Google photo had been taken in 2009, but fortunately in August. The pole’s garden was not as well groomed as when she saw it, but the same planting:

Screen shot from Google Street View

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