Iconic Views

On May 26, 2011 · 12 Comments

Skip directly to the bottom if you want to be part of a little contest. Otherwise feel free to read through my blathering extended explanation of context for a few moments.

I featured a nice Google Street View image of the historic Hume School in Arlington County, Virginia recently. It seemed familiar, and not because I’ve driven past it a thousand times but because I’d seen an eerily similar image not too long ago. It dawned on me that this was remarkably close to the winning design for the county tax sticker that will be placed on every motorized vehicle next autumn to cover the 2011/12 tax year.

Arlington Car Tax Sticker

I live in one of very few localities that still requires windshield decals to prove payment of annual automobile taxes. Many jurisdictions have done away with these stickers as superfluous. They haven’t done away with the tax of course, just the stickers. Arlington took the opposite tack and turned it into a contest, but that’s life here in the People’s Republic. Local high school students get an opportunity to participate in an annual design competition. The winner has his or her creation displayed on 155,000 vehicles for the following tax year. The Hume School will be stuck to windshields all over the county in a few months.

They’ve compiled quite a list of iconic images since beginning the contest in 2005. These are places that embody "Arlington" as distinct from the behemoth directly across the river, the District of Columbia. It’s not easy creating a distinct identity in the overpowering shadow of the capital of the United States, but that’s what the contest attempts to portray.

Surprisingly I couldn’t seem to find a comprehensive list of past winners so I had to do some Intertubes digging. I thought at the very least the county would have tracked these awards but I couldn’t find anything. I was able to compile a chronology of decals after some creative searching though. I’ve linked the locations to similar Google Street View images where they are available.

  • 2011/12 – Hume School.
  • 2010/11 – A bridge on the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) rail-to-trail in the snow. Street View doesn’t go down the trail so I can’t get very close to it.
  • 2009/10- Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Again, Google Street View falls short, however satellite imagery is available.
  • 2008/09 – Pentagon. This view also includes a memorial to September 11, 2001, which was still under construction when the Google car made its last pass.
  • 2007/08 – U.S. Air Force Memorial.
  • 2006/07 – Arlington House (Custis-Lee Mansion at present Arlington National Cemetery).
  • 2005/06 – Key Bridge and Rosslyn skyline viewed from a frozen Potomac River. This is a great image even if everything but the skyline is actually part of Washington, DC.

One of the local news blogs also got in on the action. They started a contest to find a more appropriate satirical design and anointed its own winner.

I like many of the serious and not-so-serious contenders but my favorite view is:

View Larger Map

To me, the Marine Corps War Memorial, more commonly called the Iwo Jima Memorial, is truly the most striking and iconic image in Arlington. I’d thought this one was used on a decal sometime before but I couldn’t find a record of it. Maybe it was an also-ran from one of the years. I can’t remember anymore.

There are some other local features that have never been considered but might be viable future candidates. From a local history perspective as distinct from the nationally-recognized features, perhaps these would include the Charles Drew House where the famous doctor lived between 1920-1939, or perhaps Fort C.F. Smith (my page) which was part of the Civil War defenses of Washington, or maybe even my personal favority the West Cornerstone (my page).

Maybe local neighborhoods would be more appropriate. Perhaps Clarendon, Shirlington, or Westover deserve some recognition too.


What iconic image best represents your neighborhood? What view captures the very essence of your hometown (or other favorite place) in a single Google Street View frame? Simply take a moment to drop a link from Google Maps into a comment, below. You don’t have to provide an explanation unless you want to, or for the enjoyment and amusement of other readers. I have no idea how a winner will be declared but when it happens the victor will receive a hearty congratulations and perhaps some boost in personal pride. Maybe I’ll think of some other award too. Should we keep this open for a week? That sounds about right.

You’ve seen my iconic image. Can you do better?

On May 26, 2011 · 12 Comments

12 Responses to “Iconic Views”

  1. Mr Burns says:

    Like this?

    View Larger Map

    It’s the “Dutch Mill” in Wamego, Kansas. Originally an operating mill on a nearby farm, it was dismantled block-by-block and moved to the city park many years ago. It’s *THE* symbol of our town, and appears on all kinds of things. Including the sidewalks downtown:

    View Larger Map

    (Look about halfway between the reddish car and the planter.) When the street was re-done several years ago, they put these stylized brick patterns in to tie in to the Dutch Mill. Of course, someone thought they looked like swastikas, and even the Topeka TV stations sent news crews out to examine our tribute to the Nazis.
    That controversy blew over, and the Dutch Mill remains our city’s most enduring icon.

  2. Matthew says:

    Google Maps still has only very limited coverage of Walla Walla, but here’s an iconic view of our downtown. Note onion statuette on the right sidewalk corner:

    View Larger Map

    • Marc says:

      I should note, for the record, that this is the St. John’s Bridge, in Portland, Oregon.

  3. Pfly says:

    Oh this is easy. Unfortunately, there is no Street View image that captures it, so a Google Maps satellite image will have to do:

    View Larger Map

  4. Thias says:

    I could show you what made the wealth of my small hometown Dettwiller – around 2500 inhabitants – during a major part of the last century: shoe factories, but those are abandoned now, and the Street Views showing them are pretty sad and bleak. So instead, I give you this:

    Agrandir le plan

    You can see the specific houses from Alsace, the region where I live, and the church in the background, who is a kind of symbol for the town.

  5. Scott says:

    View Larger Map

    The Carson Mansion, one of the most photographed houses in the USA.

  6. Dave says:

    The only exciting thing about Halifax, Nova Scotia, is that it has the second largest harbour in the world, so when you drive into Halifax on the bridge you’re like “woo yeah! damn we have a big harbour”. And the adrenalin starts to pump as you gaze in wonder at the giant harbour that you can see from top to toe all around you.

    View Larger Map

    But then as the excitement passes and you head on into the city, despair begins to set in.

  7. wangi says:

    http://goo.gl/maps/lma3 (Edinburgh Old Toen & Castle from Arthur’s Seat)

    View Larger Map

  8. The Upper Arrow Lake ferry at Shelter Bay. If you live in this area, your life is a mere pawn of the ferry schedules. Plus, hey, scenery.

    View Larger Map

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