Image courtesy Historic Aerials, Inc.
Well, it just keeps getting better and better for local historians. A few weeks ago, I told you about an amazing website called historicaerials.com that allowed you to view aerial images of Memphis (or anywhere in the country, really) and then with a click of a button, look through the years at the same scene. It was amazing to click back and forth, to see how buildings, streets, and other landmarks had changed over the years.
The same company now offers historic topographical views, produced by the U.S. Geological Survey, which show even more physical features that are sometimes hard to detect in aerial photos. These carefully delineate such things as creeks, power lines, water lines, even cemeteries. And some of them go all the way back to 1944. Using the "hand" tool, even if you're zooming in on one location, you can just grab the map and pull it to where you need to go.
Here's just one example: a topographical view of Mud Island as it appeared in 1944. No Harbor Town, no monorail, no park, no ... nothing.
The online images are free; there's no pressure to sign up or register. But if you want a better-quality image of a specific site, you can order that, but even so it's just a few bucks.
Go here, type in an address, and — if you're a history nut like me — you'll have your eyes glued to the screen for the next few hours.