Friday, June 20, 2014

Answer: Can you see to the other side of this mystery building?

This week's challenge was semi-hard: 
1.  Where is this building?  (A street address or lat/long would be a fine answer.) 
2.  With your extraordinary SearchResearch powers, can you find a picture of the OTHER side of this building?  (Trust me, it's worth a look.) 
3.  How old are those trees on the left side of the building?  (Within a couple of years is fine.  But you have to tell us why you believe that's the correct date.) 
4. (Extra credit for the truly hard core searchers, and because you know I enjoy knowing the history of a place...)  What was located on this site in 1875?  

Here's what I did.  

First, start with the original photo,  then crop it down to just the big, white logo: 

Even though this is small, a Search-by-Image will tell you that this is, The Sea Ranch Lodge, 60 Sea Walk Drive, P.O. Box 44, The Sea Ranch.  As Debbie G found out, sometimes you might have to play around a little with the cropping to get it "just right."  But I've had good luck in the past by just cropping it tightly so that just the logo (or relevant symbol) is showing.  

Once you know the street address, you'd think that you might be able to use StreetView to get a look at the building--but no, that particular stretch of Highway 1 is removed from StreetView, so we'll have to do something else.

Simplest way:  Search for photos or photospheres near that location.

There are multiple different approaches:

1. Using StreetView:

Search for [ The Sea Ranch Lodge ] this gives you a map like this.  The red balloon is the location of the Lodge.  (This place is 30 miles north of Jenner and about 8 miles south of the mighty town of Gualala. The place is pronouned "wah-la-la."  Really.)

Now, to look for images taken near here, you can click on the upward pointing arrows in the bottom right--but first, let's check for any photospheres taken near this location by clicking on the Pegman (he's usually yellow, but this was shot during 2014 World Cup, so he's a soccer/football guy in this image).  

Once you do that, you can see the blue dot (just above the red balloon).  That blue dot is a photosphere.  

Clicking on the photosphere lets us look around.  Note that you can zoom in/out and by dragging the image, you can spin the point-of-view.  

(And as you might notice, the photosphere is ACTUALLY on the small peninsula labeled "Black Point" in the above map; the dot location is incorrect on the map.) 

LESSON:  It's sometimes worth checking around a site--people still mislabel, misfile, & misplace things. Here it is, the Lodge from the other side... It's a pretty spectacular location.  

2.  Using Maps Views search to locate photospheres:

It turns out that Google Maps also has a specialized tool to help you locate images (including photospheres, panoramas, etc.).  To find that, search for:  

     [ Google Maps view ]

This leads you to Google Maps View home page.  Notice that this is a collection of images, photospheres, panoramas and other images located on the world map.  As you pan around on the map, you'll see images that we know are located in that location.  

You could then search for [ The Sea Ranch, CA ] and see the photosphere this way.  (And all other, nearby photospheres as well.)

The Black Point photosphere in detail:

Note the slightly different UI from the regular Maps access to photospheres
(which you get by clicking on pegman) 

3.  Using other collections:

Now, to get a historic view of this site and start to answer the "when were the trees planted" question, you can search for a survey taken of the California Coast.

     [ California coastal survey ]

Surveys are one way that people name collections of images are tagged to a location.  They're usually run by organizations like the USGS or other maps-centered groups.    

(Remember that we've seen this resource before in an earlier SearchResearch post.) 

Using the survey, you can look at this location in 1972:  

Sea Ranch Lodge, 1972.  Image by

As you can see, there are just a few tiny trees planted near the lodge.

But a picture taken just 7 years later shows the trees are starting to grow.  

 It's pretty clear those trees were planted in around 1969 - 1972.  This is agreement with the history of the Lodge as given on the Sea Ranch website. Found by the simple search: 

      [ Sea Ranch Lodge history ] 

To answer our last question, What was here in 1875? I was motivated to look for written histories of the place.  

Remember that above we discovered that this particular place is called Black Point, and it's located in the county of Sonoma.  In general, it's good to use specific place names when searching for histories.  I did NOT use "Sea Ranch" to search for a history of the place, because it didn't start as a named place until the late 1960's.  

So I did:  

     [ history of Black Point Sonoma ]

And then noticed that this leads to a book in Google Books.  Such history books are usually a great source of primary content, and well worth checking out.  Here, the Google Book scan is good:  "History of Sonoma County [Cal.]: Including Its Geology, Topography, Mountains, Valleys and Streams; with a Full and Particular Record of the Spanish Grants; Its Early History and Settlement" J. P. Fraser-Munro, 1850.

Search for "Black Point" in the text:  p. 380--"This is a small shipping point now owned by Wm. Bihler and D. L. B Ross... they built the chute in 1875..."  (The "chute" is a log chute to transfer lumber from the short to a ship waiting in the cove.) 

Several readers found that this location was part of the Rancho German (aka Rancho de Hermann), and that's true... it was part of that Rancho.  In the image below, I tried to align (as much as possible) the original Diseño for the Rancho de Hermann and a current image of the area.  The arrow show where the Lodge / mill-site is/were.  

If you read the Wikipedia article carefully there's a line:  "By 1855, German immigrants William Bihler and Charles Wagner acquired title to the northern 2.5 square leagues of Rancho German."  Guess where that was?  2.5 square leagues is 19,000 acres.  That's a lot of coastline... and forests for the mill.  So Bihler and Wagner had title and clearance to build their mill and chute in 1875.  The finished lumber would slide down the chute to waiting lumber schooners in the small cove below.  (Background story:  The lumber trade in the west coast in the late 1800's.)

A schooner waiting for lumber to come down the chute.

Search lessons: First, it's well worth looking around at images / maps / panorama resources that are nearby the site you're looking for--people frequently misfile or mislocate things on maps.  Near is often good enough (but be sure to then look for internal consistency-- the location of a building, the configuration of the coastline--to be sure that you're looking at the right thing.  

Second, remember that collections can often be rather useful.  By searching for a collection (such as the coastal survey from above), you can often find answers to your questions.  

Third, when searching for place history, be sure to use the name appropriate to the time ("Black Point" not "Sea Ranch") and consider including other location information (such as the county name, in this case, Sonoma).  

Lastly, when doing a search-by-image, OFTEN you'll have to crop the image to focus on just the part you're interested in matching.  And sometimes you have to recrop or adjust the image in some way to find a good match. 

Search on! 


  1. Good Day, Dr. Russell.

    I really liked how you found answers, specially 3 and 4. I didn't thought about doing that. Also learned about crop image instead of trim.

    Thanks, Remmij for your link. I just saw your post and I'll watch it in a few moments.

    Have a great weekend, everyone.

  2. I became curious with the mention of “leagues” as a land measurement since I have only used acres & hectares. So that led me to Spanish Customary Units & while numbers might not match more important to me was finding a reference to “leagues” being used for Spanish Land Grants

    So then I went a step further & Query [spanish land grants "league of land"] to find a list of the Ranchos of California
    Ranchos of California and the link to
    to Sonoma Ranchos

    Sonoma County lists Rancho German with Patentee is Meyer and grant was dated July 30, 1872 for 17,580 acres. This would have been a good way to confirm information found elsewhere. This latest link is a gateway to Berkeley's Earth Sciences & Map Library which holds documents on land grants that expand into Canada (that impressed me). I suppose if we were doing a paper on the subject of land grants we could make use of interlibrary loans.

    Has there been a slight change to the Books Search? As I recall we could filter the search to snippet, preview, full versions but I notice we now Google ebooks, Google free ebooks or perhaps I just hadn't noticed that before.

    The Google Maps View website can be very useful.Quite impressive. Thanks.

    In Canada we didn’t get the “soccer playing yellow man”. Ahhh darn! Ramón how about you?

    1. Hi Rosemary. I saw it when doing the SearchReseach (or at least I think so) now it is gone.

      [define:Leagues] and found it was more used in 1800's . This is the definition that shows: a former measure of distance by land, usually about three miles.

    2. Ramón -- You no longer need the : after the operator "define" -- you can get away with just [ define league ] and it will work fine.

      But to Rosemary's question, I just did a conversion query: [ 2 square leagues in acres ] to get that number. You could get the definition of [ define league ] and do the math yourself, but I let Google do the lifting for me in this case.

  3. I am so very happy to discover this page! Especially as I love teaching and research and most especially as I own a home that we rent at The Sea Ranch. May I, with your, permission and appropriate citation repost this on my blog (

    1. Be my guest! As you can probably tell, I enjoy The Sea Ranch as well.