The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #60


A reader writes:

O.K., I know I won’t win with this, but it has got to be South Island, New Zealand. Cars identical to Australia, a nice marina with deep sea fishing access (boat out in the water with lots of rods), modern electric car park lighting, modern building using Besser Block (concrete block) & Hardiplank, but the giveaway is those steep, steep mountains tumbling into the bay with what looks like remnant touches of snow high up.

Another writes:

I am not particularly good at these, but the license plates appear to be the new New York state ones, and the mountains look like the Adirondacks. So Lake Placid sounds good to me. Wish I knew where those blue and white vans are from!


These pictures where you can almost make out the license plates kill me.  The plates are very yellow, maybe with red writing.  That’s New Mexico.  Unfortunately, I discovered that the state’s North Central transit authority runs blue bus vans like those in the picture (though I can’t make out the transit logo on the side).  The obvious problem is the lake and greenery in New Mexico, which make no sense. So I looked up lakes within the transit authority’s territory.  Sadly, Google pictures of these areas are much too barren to match the picture.  Still, I’m saying Elephant Butte Lake before moving on to a more plausible answer.


I’ve never been to this particular part of Hawaii, but it doesn’t look like Oahu. Either way it looks like those beautiful volcanoes that rise out of the ocean floor. Also, like Jurassic Park.


I think it’s Flathead Lake and Polson Montana, just because you bungled Polson as “Poison” in a VFYW recently, and you’re doing penance.


This must be your easiest one yet, since I made this much progress in ten minutes (I’m absolutely terrible at this). Oregon license plates; person dressed in clothing suggesting unseasonably COOL weather currently occurring in Pacific Northwest.  Water; prettyprettypretty mountains.  Building has words ending in “th” and “y”.  I’m thinking Klamath County Library main branch in Klamath Falls, but I’m sure a better guess will be made by dozens with superior Google-fu.


Since no one was close last week, I thought I’d jump in with my wife’s suggestion: Lake Tahoe. Probably the Nevada side. My guess, though, is Homer, Alaska. Might as well mix it up …

It’s Alaska. Another:

This is my first time entering, and there are lots of clues:

1. The cars indicate a North American setting, either in Canada or the US.
2. Yellow license plates narrows it down to either Alaska, New York, or possibly New Mexico. However, since New Mexico is too dry, and New York only recently switched to yellow plates, it is clearly in Alaska.
3. There appears to be a breakwater on the far side of the boat. The boat is also fairly big, indicating that it is on the coast, not inland.
4. Two blue tour buses.
5. A pavilion, which indicates a park of some sort.
6. No snow in the background, meaning that it would either be near Juneau, or somewhere on the Inside Passage.
7. The white pickup has a yellow sticker in it, which I would guess is some sort of unit emblem for the military.

Anyways, after doing some searching, it seems that the most likely places are either Wrangell, Petersberg, or possibly Kodiak. Because I don’t really have a complete idea, I go with Petersberg.


I sincerely hope it’s not Wasilla.


This screams Alaska, probably the panhandle. I’m doing this exercise from a backcountry hut five miles from the road, so I can’t get to streetview on my iPhone, but I think this is Ketchikan. It’s pretty obviously one of the larger towns, and, well, mainly I’m guessing. But do I get points for doing this with added degrees of difficulty? (If it is Ketchikan, then the other side of the inlet would be the destination of Palin’s Bridge to Nowhere … $800 million to avoid a 10 minute ferry ride to the airport.)


I’ve never entered any of your contests, but this was too easy.  It’s a picture taken from the Best Western Landing Hotel in Ketchikan.  The road you see there is essentially the only main road in town.  I say it was too easy because my wife and her family are from Ketchikan and still reside there. The Landing Hotel is a big spot for breakfast (though the food stinks – literally).  Anyway, my guess is that this picture was taken from the 3rd floor.  Send me my book!!!!


Three days until the bar exam – I certainly picked a bad time to take on my first VFYW contest.  The high number of large vehicles and excessively large parking lot makes the US or Canada seem likely, while the yellow license plates and imposing wilderness suggest Alaska.  I’ve spent too much time on this already so I’ll just cut my losses and go with Juneau.  Besides, where else in North America would someone be wearing a black sweater right now?

On that note, another sends a more fitting version of the mystery town:

Sitka Pavillon


Can’t guarantee that it’s Juneau, but it certainly looks like a parking lot by an Alaska ferry terminal. I’d love to be there instead of melting in the East Coast heat right now.


I’m guessing that this is a picture of the SeaLife Center parking lot taken from the building at the corner of Railway and Washington Street in Seward, Alaska. That would be Resurrection Bay in the background, which is part of the 580,000-acre Kenai Fjords National Park known for its abundant marine wildlife, tidewater glaciers and, of course, the coastal fjords: long and steep-sided glacially carved valleys now filled with seawater. I haven’t been to Seward in a couple of years so I couldn’t figure out the name of the building (or business) where the picture was taken from, but thanks for featuring one of Alaska’s most beautiful towns.

Another nails the correct town:


I thought Juneau or Ketchikan at first. But, the closer I looked, I realized I have been in this parking lot before because this is the parking area for the adjacent small boat harbor. It is definitely Sitka. The location is Lincoln Street. The lettering on the building is for Goldsmith Gallery, which is located at 407 Lincoln Street. This gallery is one of more than a half dozen businesses located in this building known as the Bay View Trading Company. It’s obvious the photo was taken from the second story. What’s not clear is whether it was taken in the adjacent building, 401 Lincoln Street, which houses the Colliver Shoes and Bear Country Gifts.

Another sent the above photo. Another:

Goldsmith Gallery in Sitka. The …th and …y gave it away.

Another sends an aerial shot of the harbor:

Sitka Crescent Bay Harbor-1-Large


Wow! That’s my hometown. The photo is taken from an office above Colliver Shoes & Bear Country Gifts.  (I delivered newspapers to someone who worked up there when I was a kid, in the early ’80s.) The windows look out over the Crescent Harbor parking lot.  Those two blue buses off to the left, by the harbor, are part of the Sitka Community Ride fleet.  The structure just behind them – my brother and I waited in line there many a cold winter evening to see Santa Claus, and we spent a fair amount of time there trying to sell handmade stuff to tourists coming in from the cruise ships! Farthest right, you can see the corner of the Bayview Restaurant … I realize this is a totally excessive amount of information, but it’s hard to write about Sitka without reminiscing!

Sitka is such a tiny town that it’s uncommon, and a lot of fun, to see it featured anywhere, especially in such a wildy popular blog.  Thank you!


I wasn’t born in Sitka, have never visited, don’t have a relative living within several thousand miles, and didn’t buy an engagement ring at that jewelry store, so I have no “family photos” to add or fancy personal vignettes.  I’m just a dude with an internet connection and a little spare time.  But for bonus points, I attached a pretty screengrab from Google Earth showing the pretty mountain range across the bay, as also seen in the photo:

Screen shot 2011-07-26 at 11.34.09 AM


I swore I wouldn’t spend any more time searching … how do people do this every week and still get anything else done? My first ever guess is Sitka, Alaska, USA on Lincoln street close to the Goldsmith Gallery. I’m walking away from the computer now.


The blue buses in the parking lot look like the Sitka Community Ride buses.


I reached your blog through the Human Transit blog by Jarrett Walker, who Picture (Metafile) 1to the American Public Transportation Association website to find which cities in Alaska ran bus systems and tried to match the look of the buses. After 15 minutes of geeking out to the picture, I hope I got it right.

Another sent the above photo of the bus. Another:

Sitka has an interesting history.  It was formerly the capital of the Alaska Territory, until it was moved to Juneau in 1906, and it was the site of the official transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States in 1867.  Therefore the choice of the street name, “Lincoln”, has a greater significance than in many American cities.

Another concludes his lengthy description with:

This is probably where I should have left good enough alone, but after another hour of searching, I found this video from some tourist’s vacation there:

The window is the farthest right of those on the second floor of the building next to the Goldsmith Gallery. It’s taken from next to the pavilion, and you can see the streetlight in front of the window. First time player, so probably not a winner, but thanks for a fun search!


I wish I could visit the Sitka of Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union – a two million strong Jewish metropolis.  That sounded like a pretty interesting place.  I suspect the real Sitka is a bit more sleepy, though still well worth a trip.

One of the most impressive entries we received this week:

Having grown up in Juneau, Alaska, I knew that this week’s VFYW was from coastal Alaska. The first clue was the combination of rugged mountains, temperate rainforests, and fishing boats indicating a Pacific Northwest-like location. The large proportion of American trucks, SUVs, and minivans indicated that this location was in North America – likely Washington State, British Columbia, or Alaska. Of these three locations, the distinctive orange license plates are unique to Alaska. The lack of snow in the mountains indicates that this location is probably not on mainland Alaska, where mountains tend to be higher and have perennial snowfields, and also could suggest a relatively southern latitude. The breakwater barely visible to the left of the structure in the image’s center made for a landmark that I could scan for in Google Earth – a necessary clue because some of the towns I wanted to investigate have not been captured by Google’s Streetview car.

GoogleMapsGoldsmithGallery I began looking for towns with breakwaters in coastal Alaskan and quickly ruled out the Aleutian Islands due to the lack of tall, coniferous trees visible in this week’s image. After looking at coastal towns in Southcentral and Southeastern Alaska with populations large enough to support a paved parking lot (there aren’t many towns meeting this criteria), I finally found an image of Crescent Harbor with a mountain range that matched the background of the VFYW image. Searching for additional evidence that Crescent Harbor was the correct location, this image confirmed my guess due to the odd rain shelter structure visible in the VFYW image.

Because the perspective of both these Crescent Harbor photographs were similar to that of the VFYW image, I used Google Earth to navigate to the most likely location of the VFYW: somewhere along Lincoln Street. Google Maps yielded a great clue, because at 407 Lincoln Street the aerial view of Sitka shows a business named “Goldsmith Gallery” in the approximate location that the photograph was taken from – the left of the VFYW image clearly shows two words ending with the letters “TH” and “Y.” Additional inspection of the Google Earth satellite imagery showed that the eastern section of the building at 407 Lincoln Street either had an awning or projected further out toward Lincoln Street than the western section of the building. Because Google Streetview has not yet captured Sitka, it was difficult to find a clear shot of 407 Lincoln Street’s facade, but an image search of the building revealed this photograph of the eastern part of the building’s facade which clearly shows the building’s second story protruding further than its first story.

The paint color and wood pattern of this facade matched that of the protruding area in SitkaExactWindow the VFYW image, so now I just needed to find an image of the western part of 407 Lincoln Street which contains the exact window from which the photograph was taken. Luckily, I stumbled across this image which is a reverse-angle shot of the VFYW image, including the breakwater, the rain shelter, and the two different facades of the 407 Lincoln Street building. The photograph was shot from the building slightly left of center with a horizontal blue band painted above its windows, second floor, window furthest to the right (see attached image “SitkaExactWindow.jpg”).

So, the final location is the second story of 407 Lincoln St., the window just to the west of the protruding facade, Sitka, Alaska, United States. Tracking this window down was way too much fun!

Dozens of readers knew the correct window in Sitka, but the following reader had the best case for a tie breaker:

Okay, so you’ll probably get a ton of correct answers, but this is my fourth (I previously got Paris, Dili, and Tallinn) and I started the VFYW league you posted about (which is still going strong!).

The answer is Sitka, Alaska.  The license plate started my search, but the lettering on the building seals it – the pink building is the “McDonald’s Bayview Trading Company” building that houses on the upper floor “Goldsmith Gallery,” the last letters of each word visible in the lettering.  The window is the first window on the second floor directly to the left of the brick wall.  (Incidentally this lettering used to read Russian American Company instead of Goldsmith Gallery, giving the picture a little “Russia from my doorstep” feel to the contest this week!)  I’ve also included a map: