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Explore this interactive map of San Francisco 150 years ago

By Time Out San Francisco editors

What did your block look like in 1850? How about your office, or your favorite coffee shop? What did San Francisco look like over 150 years ago? Thanks to a recent online creation, we can now find out.  

OldSF has taken 13,000 images from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection and created their own vintage version of Google Street View. You should cancel your plans for the rest of the day because it's nearly impossible to pull yourself away from this extraordinarily organized archive. 

Developers Dan Vanderkam and Raven Keller are the creators of OldSF, and are perhaps the most patient people in San Francisco. While the San Francisco Public Library keeps detailed photographic records of old school San Francisco, the content was vast and complex.

The project began when Vanderkam went through the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection to search for his own cross-streets. He found a photo, explains the OldSF website, but, "the image was mislabeled—the intersection in the foreground is actually Waller and Fillmore, not Waller and Webster. Which meant that (the) photo from 1945 was taken from his roof! [Vanderkam] put together a now-and-then shot, but it always bothered him that the mislabeling of the image was so crucial to finding it. This led to the idea of putting the images on a map. And now, years later, we have that map!"

The photos on OldSF's interactive map range in date from 1850 to 2000 but depending on your interest, you can search the site based on more specific date ranges. Older sections of the city tend to show older photos. For example, Market Street is well-represented on OldSF. We were able to find a photo from the 1920s taken just down the street from one of our homes—complete with horses!

"The library's collection contains about 40,000 images. Many of these photographs have little geographic context (e.g. they're portraits) and cannot be located," OldSF notes. "In all, about 20,000 of the images could be placed on a map. We've geocoded about 65% of the possible images: 13,000."

Think this is cool? Us too. Which is why it's so exciting that the creators have made their whole file public. If you can help map images or can assist in making OldSF even more accurate, Vanderkam and Keller invite you to help. In the meantime, have fun with this historical look at the City by the Bay.

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