Google Maps Goes Retro

Who hasn’t used Google Maps to get a bird’s-eye view of his house?

But who knew the bird flew in 1934 too?

Alert “06880” reader Dick Lowenstein sent a link to an amazing website.  Part of the University of Connecticut Map and Geographic Information Center, it features a box to type in any Connecticut address.  (It says “locate an address in the Hartford area,” but that just proves how capital-centric they are upstate.)

Hit “enter” and 2 maps appear, side by side.  One shows the current, familiar Google Maps view of today.  The other shows the same view — from 1934.

I grew up on High Point Road, literally in the shadow of the Staples athletic fields.  Eighty years ago, my street didn’t exist — nor did Staples.  It was fields and forests — truly the outskirts of town.

And check out this view of the beach:

The Bradley Street neighborhood was already developed, and Old Mill too — but look at Bluewater Hill and Compo Hill.  There was nothing there — just open land.  Quick, let’s travel back in time and buy up some property!

The images are much sharper on the actual website than reproduced above.  Of course, the 1934 aerial photos are not Google-quality — and they’re black and white, not color.  Then again, nothing from 1934 is in color.  It was a very gray year.

But in their own way, the older maps are even more remarkable than their spy-satellite, 21st-century counterparts.

We know what we’re looking at today.  Now we can also see those same — yet very — different scenes from another, fast-receding century.

(Click here for the UConn Google Maps website.)

23 responses to “Google Maps Goes Retro

  1. Cool!

    Thanks Dan!

  2. Jo Ann Davidson

    If you like maps and local history, this site is a real find.

  3. Holly Wheeler

    Thanks, Dan. This is wonderful!

  4. Fascinating.

  5. What a thrill to get this unique window to the past. Too bad there’s no street view!!!

  6. Wow! Very cool! When my family moved to the end of Timber Lane in the early 60s, there were no houses behind ours. There were woods as far as the eye could see. The part of Pumpkin Hill that heads toward Berndale Drive was just a dirt road. My brother and I used to skate on a “pond” –well, really, it was just frozen swamp water–where a house now is. (I’ve often wondered if the basement of that place floods every time we have a big rain storm.) In other words, between the mid-50’s and mid-60’s a ton of development took place here–just like what’s happening today.

  7. Just used the website and it’s fascinating. Many thanks to Dick Lowenstein for calling attention to it.

  8. Somehow Bing Maps managed to take multiple photos of every location from several different angles; you can use the little arrows at the top to orbit a spot on the map. Here’s part of Compo:

  9. Wendy Crowther

    Westport Town Hall has the 1934 aerial maps too. In addition, they also have the aerial maps for 1929 and 1958. They may have later years as well but I’ve always referenced the earlier ones. They’re beautiful and fascinating, especially for those of us who own older homes or who are interested in Westport history. The maps are very large, and the roads aren’t labeled. Though you can narrow the choices down to your area of interest using a grid, you then need to know the lay of the land to find what you’re looking for.

    I was thrilled to find my house on the 1929 map. My backyard once led to open fields, orchards and farmland. Not so now. The long-ago demolished Westport Sanitarium property with all of its buildings was cleary visible across the street. Very cool stuff.

  10. GREAT!
    Thanks Charles, Dan & Dick.
    Got ’em book marked.

  11. Thanks Dick and Dan.
    I had heard there was once a horse track across the street from my house, and sure enough, there it was.

  12. Sounds like you live near Wynfromere Lane. Apparently the bizarre name comes from some phrase like “win from here.”

  13. This is a contender for one of Dan’s best nuggets of gold! I remember in the very early 60’s when the race track and stables near what is now Wynfromere La off of W. Parish Rd. were deteriorating but still there and we as children played there undisturbed and didn’t bother anybody. This was part of the old Bedford estate which as everyone knows, included Nyala Farm and the surrounding property. It is also interesting to see from the air how close the thruway parallels the railroad tracks and even now doesn’t look too invasive but we all know that the thruway pretty much destroyed “Old Saugatuck” as it once was. I can remember driving on Greens Farms Rd with my mom sitting in a booster seat and watching them build the thruway (1957?). How many people remember that the embankments and road base that formed the thruway is built on grey silt that was dredged from the bottom of LI Sound and pumped in liquified form up Hillspoint Rd through these huge pipes that ran up the side of the road? I can remember sitting in our car on the south beach watching the barges out in the sound pumping that stuff. I wonder if that would change the people’s minds who think that dumping snow in the Sound for lack of a better place to put it would be an ecological disaster? Just restoring what once was to a small degree.

  14. Stunning photos, Dan. The change that occurred in the Westport topography between the 30s and early 60s dwarfs the changes occuring today. I was in 3rd and 4th grade ’57-’58 and a Saugatuck resident when the thruway cut a huge swath through our community. I remember standing on a hill in Saugatuck overlooking the thruway with my pals and hurling dirt clods at police cars and construction vehicles on the road, which was not yet completed. I did it for fun, but my friends, who had been pushed out of their homes, hurled those dirt bombs and the occasional rock for other reasons. A lot of friends — as well as families, homes and businesses — evaporated during those couple of years.

    • I did of course check out the photos of Saugatuck from back in the day. One of my great regrets is being just a few years too young to have ever known the Saugatuck community before I-95 devastated it. I am jealous of your memories!

      • So much of Saugatuck vanished, Dan. The area where the Exit 17 ramp is now was jammed with old frame houses that had been built for railroad workers. The neighborhood was jammed with kids, who mainly attended the old Saugatuck School on Bridge Street or Assumption. My dad and longtime RTM rep Jack Folsom would walk through that neighborhood and up a long hill from the train station every evening to be met at Indian Hill Rd. by their kids — unless they stopped at the “new” Arrow on the way home, where Frank Nistico awaited behind the bar. Porky Manero’s old restaurant, btw, was located where the Riverside Ave. overpass is now.

        • Wow — I never knew Manero’s (now Rizzuto’s) was not in its original location. I imagine the old frame houses you mention were like the few that remain adjacent to the Exit 17 ramp, right? Any other memories of now-vanished buildings or landmarks?

          I see by the UConn map that Green’s Farms Road was closer to the train tracks than it now is, right? It looks like it was “straightened” when I-95 came in.

          As for Buck 52’s memory (above) of silt being dredged from the Sound to form the road base: how did that work? There must have been tremendous disruptions to town life during the construction of the thruway, huh?

  15. Remarkable to look at the present day Saugatuck Reservoir, which was flooded by Bridgeport Hydraulic in 1938, compared to the town of Valley Forge in 1934.

  16. Larry Perlstein

    This is awesome Dan. I had been looking for something about the old quarry that is now Crystal Lake, and there it is in the 1934 photos.

  17. Dan,
    The pipes (and we’re talking huge circumference pipes) that carried the silt from the sound were laid right along Hillspoint Rd from the main beach along Beachside Ave. In retrospect it was absolutely amazing the town put up with it. I do remember my mother saying that by the time they built the thruway they had no choice because the post road was totally choked with truck/car traffic because the Merritt has never allowed trucks. It used to be a 12 hour drive to get from Westport to our summer house in Maine before the interstate was built.

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