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Create Your Own Historical Maps with WhatWasThere

Create Your Own Historical Maps with WhatWasThere
Contemporary Paris and the Nazi occupation of 1940, overlapped with WhatWasThere.com

Google Street View is great for getting an instant look at what a specific location looks like now, but what if you wanted to see that same location 50 years ago, or 100? The new site WhatWasThere.com aims to help do just that by letting users upload a tagged photograph of any building from any era to match its current location. The result is a remarkable view of our constantly evolving built environment. 

Type in a geographic location on the site's main page, and you're then led to a map of that location with a column of photos on the left side that have their year and building name or site description listed. After selecting a photo, you're given the option of viewing the photograph layered over the same location today, via Google Street View. Adjusting the fade option one direction or the other helps you see how much the site has or has not changed.

The more users contribute photographs to the site, the better chance there is to fully experience what entire downtowns or even entire cities were like throughout their histories.

After selecting a 1910 photograph of Woodward Avenue in Detroit, I was able to fade it into Google's street view of the same location.

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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