More Tools for Historians: Now Historical TOPOGRAPHICAL Maps Are Available Online

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 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.

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

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