Image courtesy of HistoricAerials.com
Poplar and Mendenhall in 1956
I can’t say enough about a wonderful website called Historic Aerials, which more than lives up to its name.
Just type in an address, or a street, or an intersection, or a landmark — and in a flash you have an aerial view of that location. Now sure, you can do that with Google Earth, too. But what sets Historic Aerials apart is the “historic” part of the name. Find the location you want, and then, just by clicking on a row of dated boxes alongside the image, you can take a trip back in time, to explore that view as it looked 10, 20, sometimes more than 50 years ago. (The dates change depending on what part of the country you’re viewing.)
And flying through time is seamless. Yes, it takes a few seconds for some pages to load. But you don’t have to start all over every time and retype the address every time you change the date, so you can quickly click through the available dates and watch time fly by, as buildings and houses go up, roads are constructed, farmlands get covered with subdivisions, and other progress is made over the years.
The view above shows the intersection of Poplar and Mendenhall in 1956. If you’re having trouble making sense of it, that’s because back then there were TWO intersections. Poplar is the large street running somewhat diagonally across the image. Mendenhall is the smaller street that runs vertically, coming down from the top. Now not many people remember this, but back in the 1950s, if you were heading south on Mendenhall, you came to a stop at Poplar. It didn’t make that sweeping curve past Gus’s Fried Chicken and then continue south. In 1956, as you can see if you look closely here, if you wanted to keep going, you turned left (or east) on Poplar, drove about a block, and then turned right, crossed the railroad tracks, and then headed south on a narrow road that was then called Mt. Moriah. It’s the street just to the right of that big open field. Look closely and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
But what’s interesting about this picture, besides that convoluted intersection, is what you don’t see. There’s no First Tennessee Bank building on the corner, no Houston’s, no White Station Tower, no Clark Tower. Just a cluster of buildings and a few houses. But just click on the “year” boxes at the left, and you’ll see how rapidly this area changed over the years.
And look, they also offer “TOPOS” — detailed topographical maps of this same site, that also span a period of years and decades.
I can spend days on this, looking up locations of long-lost streets, buildings, bridges, golf courses, drive-in movie theatres, and more. The views, by the way, are seamless. You can click on an address in Florida, and (if you have the time and don’t get carpal tunnel syndrome) can scroll across the country all the way to Canada.
Again, you can do this with Google. But Google doesn’t let you take this trip back in the 1950s. It’s simply amazing.
The site itself is free. If you want to use one of their photos, just zero in on the location you need, and there’s a button (not shown here) that lets you purchase and download a high-resolution version of this image (without the white “watermark” across it, of course).
I found this site only a few years ago, and now use it on a regular basis. What I’d like to know, though, is: Where have all these wonderful images been all these years?? And who on earth did all this work to put it together?