Recent Research – Zillow and Google Earth

As you may already know, the main setting for East of Yesterday is in the  early 1920s, St. Augustine, Florida.

Today, I really wanted to nail down the area of town in which a certain person lives. My requirements were that the the neighborhood had to be modest during the 20s, with older houses (for back then) and small lots. And, of course, the neighborhood had to exist.

St. Augustine 1914 MapSo I called up my long-bookmarked scrollable, zoomable map of St. Augustine in 1914. And I pulled up Google Maps and zoomed it in as well. And I started strolling down the streets courtesy of Street View, checking out streets.

Many of the streets I discarded as too prosperous. One street looked perfect–Hope Street. The houses were just the style I was looking for. So I decided that I needed more info–the kind of info that comes from property data. So I brought up Zillow, I punched in Hope Street, St. Augustine*, and started pulling up houses.

They were all built in 1925. Well, maybe there were a few that weren’t, but all the ones I clicked were. I don’t know what was there before 1925–other than the street itself, which is on my historical map–but I figured it was a good bet that there were no houses there. So I moved on.

Eventually, after chasing down some streets that turned out to be unnamed on my map, or streets that exist now, but didn’t exist then, I settled on Pine Street. It is on the edge of a field that borders the Matanzas River. (The street is not, itself, riverfront property, and the field is likely swamp) Some of the houses are modern, but others were built in 1900 and earlier. Which is perfect.

So this was my procedure:

  1. Find likely street on historical map.
  2. Look up street on Google Maps. All of the streets I looked at still exist today. (During the course of this research, I have found that very few streets ever are actually destroyed.) Juxtaposition if necessary, in the case of renamed streets.
  3. Verify that the street has houses on it. It is entirely possible that some of the houseless streets had houses once upon a time, but if I couldn’t verify it, I moved on.
  4. Take a stroll down the street using Google Street View. Are the houses too big? Is the street too wide? In one case, the street turned out to be an alley, and I saw some rather intrusive photos into people’s back yards.
  5. If all looks good, bring up the street on Zillow, and start pulling up property information. Confirm that the house was built before 1910.

My next step is to take a drive down Pine Street in real life. Since, according to modern mapping software,  there still is a field across the street, it somewhat confirms my suspicion that it is swampland, but I want to confirm that. I also need to drive down Bridge Street, which is where my protagonists live. The last time I took a history trip through St. Augustine, we drove down ML King Avenue, which was Central Avenue in the 20s, which, in the story, causes all kinds of fun confusion.

That’s sure to result in a road trip post.

* Updated to add Zillow link because they–the Zillow people–asked so nicely.

4 Thoughts to “Recent Research – Zillow and Google Earth”

  1. I’ve never heard of Zillow. Sounds like you were having fun with the research. I’m glad. 🙂 How annoying, though, to find the perfect street only to discover that it didn’t exist in the right time period!

    1. I knew I’d find another one if I just kept looking. I’m very familiar with St. Augustine and it is chock-full of 100 year old houses. I must agree that I am enjoying the heck out of the research necessary for this novel.

  2. Update! Ugh. The weather is way too hot for a trip to St. Augustine right now. But the weather guys are predicting that the weather will l take a turn in about a week and a half. Can’t wait. Too brutal for me to even take my top down on my Jeep.

    1. That does sound like hot weather. I hope it breaks soon. {Sympathetic Smile}

      Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

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