The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #48


A reader writes:

Sometimes it snows in April, as Prince sang.

Looks like a small- to medium-sized city in the upper Midwest (minivans, gently sloping streets, late Victorian buildings, possibly a grain elevator on the horizon) where there was a big snow event on the weekend of April 16-17. I’m guessing it’s Wisconsin or Michigan because I got snow here in Minnesota on the 16th and the storm moved on by the 17th. Green Bay, Wisconsin?

Another writes:

This looks like my hometown of Buffalo, NY. I haven’t the inclination to zoom in, check out the license plates or try to find that distinctive building on the right, but the tree looks right, the sky looks right, and it feels like home. And I remember my mother complaining about it snowing a couple of weeks ago.


When I saw this week’s photo with the date “April 17,” I immediately thought, “That was OUR Viewer weather on April 17!” I live in State College, PA, so I started looking close by. I checked out Altoona but couldn’t find anything close, then googled church steeples in Pittsburgh. I believe I’ve found the church spire in the photo, even with a similar building in the distance: St. John Vianney in Pittsburgh. It is on Climax Street, near Allen Street. Unfortunately, I could not find a neighboring street that had the right configuration of traffic lights, parking lots, and buildings.


I know from talking to my family back home that Michigan got a pretty heavy mid-April snow. And I see a Cadillac, some Fords, and maybe a Dodge in the back of the parking lot; that high a ratio of American-made cars screams Michigan. That strange building looks vaguely ski-lodge-like, so probably in the northern part of the lower peninsula. Maybe near Nub’s Nob in Harbor Springs?


This is looking west on Third Avenue in downtown Spokane, Washington. And yes, the weather has been this crappy until recently.  If you were going to choose the most unflattering photo of our little gem of a city one could find, you could have done no better. Ugh. But thanks for the international exposure.


This looks like the easiest VFYW ever, but after 4 hours, I still have no idea.

Cue Dish follower who lives next door, got married in the Episcopal Church, used to skate in that hockey arena, and painted those signal poles yellow.


I won’t be able to guess the exact location, being sidetracked by OBL’s killing, but I’ll give the general location. I spent some time in the transportation industry and one thing I learned is that states usually put their own unique details on traffic control devices, so I bypassed some other clues to hone in on the traffic signals.  The yellow poles and yellow mast arms are found in North Dakota, Fargo in particular. So I say Fargo.

Close. Another:

Something about that picture caught my eye, then I looked closer and realized it’s my former home town – Minot, North Dakota.

A few dozen readers correctly guessed Minot. One writes:

Oh it’s a beautiful day here in the Upper Midwest. The beautiful April snowfall, block streets and Wells Fargo Bank sign are all important clues.  At first I thought this might be Minnesota or perhaps Wisconsin. The key of course is the “Main Medical” sign. A few google searches brought me to the Emergency/Trauma facility at Trinity Hospital, which is kitty-corner from the “Main Medical Building” at 315 S. Main Street in Minot.  And this is exactly why Google Street View was developed!


Woo-hoo. Got my first one! This was taken from Trinity Hospital, One West Burdick Expressway, Minot, North Dakota, USA:


The intersection pictured is Burdick Expressway and South Main Street. I don’t know the precise hospital room window from which the photo was taken, but I guess that it was from the top floor.


The VFYW contest gets me through most Saturday nights when I pull the night shift with our newborn daughter. This week was a winner. As a civil engineer, I was most caught by the yellow mast arms for the traffic lights. North Dakota DOT mandates that all mast arms be yellow, which then only left a couple cities. Then I narrowed it down to Minot and the hospital from which the photo was taken.  I can’t help but think that the snow on such a late day in 2011 hopefully brought a smile to the patient or family member of the patient in that room.

Our daughter’s nursery is travel themed and stocked with books of all the places we hope she’ll see. A VFYW book would be a great addition!


I wouldn’t even have known how to start without the date and the weather.  That led me to this weather map:

Screen shot 2011-05-03 at 11.46.31 AM

Among Wyoming, northern Montana, North Dakota, and the UP, I went with North Dakota because of the flatness and because I could just barely see a grain elevator in the background.  I felt like I was on the right track after seeing the bright yellow traffic light poles in various towns in the state.  This is the first time I’ve even taken a stab at one of these (long-time reader, first-time window-guesser!), and I have never spent so much time on Google Maps in my life.

Another sends an screenshot from Google Maps:



I’m a first-timer. I’ve never been there and have no connection whatever to the place. I guessed it was somewhere in the U.S., a not very large town far enough west for a Wells Fargo and far enough north for a spruce tree, pretty flat and pretty windy, since there are few other trees. I thought the date was a good clue, but it snowed all over the country on that day, so it was kind of a dead-end for me.

At first I zoomed in on Fargo, which has the right kind of yellow street-signal posts, but it’s too big of a town. Figuring I was in the right state, I looked for other ND towns with a Wells Fargo downtown. I picked Minot for no reason, but once I saw the vertical stripes on the Wells Fargo building in Google Street View, I knew I found it. I hunted around for the building with the MM logo, which is the Main Medical building. The hospital is on the other corner. The big house-looking building across the street is a funeral home: a little too convenient.


View From Your Window - Minot Wells Fargo

The white building in the background on the left-hand side is recognizable as a Wells Fargo branch, because of their trademark red background and yellow letters on the bank’s logo. From there, I was able to narrow down my search to North Dakota branches of Wells Fargo, who has a distinctively strong presence in various small cities’ skylines from Lubbock to Lincoln. Once I was able to nail down the Minot branch (photo attached), I took a stroll down Main St via Google StreetView and imediately recognized the Main Medical Building on the lower right corner of the contest picture.


I must have looked at 500 different steeples in MN, WI, IA, and God knows however many other Upper Midwestern states, but I finally decided to search for <<“main medical” downtown former building theater>>.  Lo and behold, an article in the Minot Daily News came up, and a quick street view revealed good ol’ Minot has those yellow traffic light poles.  So I did a search of “cathedrals” nearby Minot. BANG – there are my four white little fellows atop Saint Leo’s Catholic Church.

Here’s a very similar photo circa 1994 from the aforementioned news article. Looks like it was taken from a couple windows down toward the intersection:

Minot 2


Unfortunately, I don’t have an interesting story about Minot or Trinity Hospital, and can’t say I’ve been there, but Quentin Burdick was the first Democrat elected to Congress from North Dakota and Minot’s nickname is “The Magic City.”

Among the dozens of correct guessers this week, only two have guessed challenging views in the past without winning. To break the tie, we’re going to award the prize to the reader who has participated in every window contest to date. He writes:

I have to say, I had an odd route to finding this spot, and it was a miracle that I homed in on it so quickly. I was searching for Swiss-style funeral homes, then Lutheran funeral homes, which got me to Minot. A random photo of downtown Minot showed the same yellow traffic lights and similar buildings. From there, Google Maps dropped me right in front of the medical center.

No, I won’t calculate which window of the Trauma Center we’re in, nor where in the room the photographer had to be standing, because I already did that for Duluth, placing the photographer’s exact location in 3-dimensional space to within a couple feet, and it didn’t do me any good. So no more geometric Visio diagrams for you until I win a book, buddy!

It’s on its way.