The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #83


A reader writes:

Brick university buildings, park, bike lanes, huge crane and parking garage in the distance – I'm pretty sure that's Ann Arbor. I'd pinpoint it better, but the whole city pretty much looks like that, and if I had time to go on such a quest I wouldn't be spending New Year's Eve working on a dissertation.

Another writes:

Ok, my first attempt for 2011! After looking at the pole banners, the colors, and the flat landscape, I immediately thought of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. And then on the campus map I discovered Palmer Field. After reading about all the construction that has been going on, I feel fairly confident that I am in the right spot. I also feel fairly confident that is either the Life Sciences building or one nearby located on Washtenaw Avenue. The view is an upper floor looking north toward Couzens Hall and the Cardiovascular Center.

Yes! I entered before the strike of midnight!


When I first saw this picture I figured that it had to be New Jersey, based on the housing and skyline, and based on the density of the buildings. It reminds me of either Hamilton Park in JC or Weequahic Park in Elizabeth and Newark. I'm probably way off and it's some obscure city in the former Soviet bloc.


European cars driving on the right, a soccer goal in the park, the trees and architecture all point to continental Europe. I'm sure those yellow and blue bus stop signs will be a better clue to someone else … I'm going to guess that this is Prague and the exact location or something in the view is connected with the late Vaclav Havel.


Given that Tuesday is the Iowa Caucus, and that this picture is of the flattest land I've ever seen, I'd have to say that this is somewhere in Iowa … not Des Moines (not "big enough"), but Cedar Falls? I'm still a bit too full from my New Year's Eve dinner to spend time searching this one out, but I'd eat my hat if wasn't Iowa.

By the way, I want to thank the staff for a great year of window views. I have seen places that I would never have visited and some that I definitely will NOT be going to.

Another gets the right city:

No Google maps, no image searching – just the way my heart almost skipped a beat when I first saw the photo of my favorite city, Chicago. I'll be disappointed if that's not Chicago because it will mean that I've lost my feel for my former home, but that architecture, those alleys, that park – no, there's no way I'm wrong.

Another nails the right location:

I've been hoping for a Chicago one for a while so I could get it! I've lived here long enough to know the place inside out. This is shot from an upper floor window – I'll guess 9th floor, near the southeast corner of the building that stands nearest the intersection – of the Mount Sinai Hospital at 15th Place and California Avenue. The view is south-southwest along California Avenue, encompassing some homes and the large park, which were the two clues I needed to pinpoint this.  Image

The overall feeling of the photo – a gridded, denser, older, colder city, with development stretching farther than the eye can see and a horizon dotted with tall structures – gave me a strong sense that it would be Chicago. Once I looked in more detail, I noticed the red brick three-flat building to the far left, a housing type and architectural style that is fairly unique to Chicago. At this point, I knew I had to find it.

The mix of housing styles, presence of surface parking and at least one obvious vacant lot, narrowed the scope down to the city's less wealthy south and west sides.  Chicago has a number of large parks, linked with boulevards, that ring the central area, an "emerald necklace" that has recently been submitted as a whole for listing in the National Register. The distinctive curved roadway in the park, once a horse carriageway, was a good sign that it would be one of these stately old parks.

I immediately ruled out Jackson and Washington Parks, near the University of Chicago, where I work, as the view wasn't familiar. I then began working my way clockwise along the boulevard system, looking for large surface parking lots near tall buildings adjacent to parks. I thus ruled out Sherman Park, Gage Park, and McKinley Park, before arriving at Douglas Park in the North Lawndale neighborhood, where I found the features I was looking for. I was then able to confirm the precise locale by looking at the bike lane on California Avenue (which I've ridden), the soccer field in the park, and the configuration of windows on a couple of the houses.

North Lawndale is a rough neighborhood with an interesting history. Mount Sinai is a holdover from its days as the principal Jewish neighborhood of Chicago. It essentially became all-black in the 1950s, and then was devastated by riots in the 1960s, from which it has not yet recovered.

Another sent the above photo. Another writes:

The park at the right of the photo is Douglas Park, where I have played far too many soccer matches for my now mid-30s joints to recall.

A shot of the park:

MtSinaiGoogle copy

Another writes:

Checked in New Year's Eve day when I remembered that it was also a VFYW Saturday (you are more reliable than the mailman) and was delighted to take one look out the window and know it was the Chicago's West Side. Until a couple months ago I lived about two miles north of this window and spent a number of years walking the wide boulevards along Humboldt Park (Douglas Park's sister due north). I've enjoyed getting, if not winning, windows in Auckland, Jakarta, and Casablanca, but this one put a smile on my face. Thanks, I miss that town.

Another points out, "In Google Maps, the white cars are even in the street view":


Another notes:

One interesting thing I noticed while doing my research is that the person in the light-colored building to the bottom left of the photo must be very paranoid. The building is blurred out in all the Google Street View pictures, so they must have contacted Google and complained.

Another reader:

This one is easy for me: Mount Sinai Hospital.  I'll guess 12th floor. To the right is Douglas Park. Also to the right, on the south end of the park, is St. Anthony's Hospital. The fact that Mt. Sinai Hospital (Jewish) and St. Anthony's (Italian) exist within blocks of each other is a vestige of the days when people of different ethnicities wouldn't go to the same hospital. While Mt. Sinai was originally Jewish, it is now a significant provider to the poor and working-class Blacks and Hispanics in the area.

I've worked as a social worker, researcher and lawyer in this part of town for years, and I often drive down California past 15th Street to go to the main Cook County Criminal Courts Building (the largest unified criminal courts system in the world, or at least it used to be). The tall, ugly brutalist court administration building is obscured by smoke, directly to the south.

Another provides more details on the jail system:

Known as "26th and Cal" or "Cook County" to Chicagoans. You definitely don’t want to find yourself there. Fuck that. A DOJ report found that Cook County had systematically violated the constitutional rights of inmates (see here).  Specific alleged violations that have resulted in Federal sanctions and/or class action lawsuits include:

– Systematic beatings and rapings by corrections officers
– Inmates forced to sleep on cell floors due to overcrowding and mismanagement
– Rodent infestation and injury caused to sleeping inmates by rat and mouse bites
– Failure to provide adequate medical care, including failure to dispense medications 

Cook County has held several infamous criminals including Al Capone, Tony Accardo, Frank Nitti, Larry Hoover, Jeff Fort, Richard Speck, Matthias St. John, and John Wayne Gacy.  It was also the setting for the musical Chicago.

On that note:

Another reader:

Needless to say, as a Chicagoan I knew it was Chicago instantly – the grayness of the city streets, matching the dirty sunset.  Nelson Algren, the City's poet laureate (in all but name), said it best in his incomparable Chicago: City on the Make: "Yet once you've come to be part of this particular patch, you'll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real."  And if you can look at this photo and still love this place, then I reckon he was right.

On to guessing the correct floor of the hospital:

I have been playing VFYW for a month, have been close every week, but this time I think VFW Dec 31 2011 Ken PirieI have the answer! It looks like this is taken from the top (11th?) floor of the Mt Sinai Hospital in Chicago, looking north from the middle window of the bay protruding from the north facade. I can't find a floor plan of the building but guessed the middle window because the other two, as corner rooms, would seem to have more light. The view looks onto the parking lot with hospital shuttle buses and shows Douglas Park to the right. Key clues for me were the flat terrain, the rowhouses and the architecture of the building in the background on the park.

So very close. Another gets the right floor:

There were lots of hints in this week's photo, but the final giveaway was the sign at the bus stop across the street. That blue-white-blue design is fairly unique to the Chicago CTA, and eliminates cities like Detroit, whose signs are red and black.  Chicago has a ton of parks, but a tablet PC and Google Earth make this kind of search fast and easy. 

Mt Sinai Birds Eye View East

To identify the window, I noted that the it looks directly down the west side of the alley on the far side of the parking lot. Next, I looked over the top of two of utility poles, and noted where they intersect the street. Google maps doesn't have bird's eye views of Chicago, but Microsoft's Bing does. I grabbed an east-facing bird's eye view [seen above], and added the two vectors leading back to the building. Then, using the north Mt Sinai Birds Eye View North
facing bird's eye view [seen right], added perspective lines from the west side of the alley to the base of the building, and up the side. That pinpointed the window in the middle of the three possible windows on the south-facing side of the hospital. Returning to the east view, I dropped a vertical line down the side, and since I couldn't see which window that intersected on the south side of the building, I dropped an identical line down the west side (those two lines of length L). That showed it's the second window from the top – the 10th floor, if the floors correspond to windows – circled in yellow on the north-facing view.

The 10th floor is home to the Mother Baby unit, making me wonder if the photographer was perhaps a new father?

Three readers correctly answered the 10th floor of Mt. Sinai, but the above reader has already won the contest, and the following reader is the only one to have gotten a difficult window in the past without winning, so he is the winner this week:

The shot reminded me strongly of New Haven, but the Green didn't match up (no soccer fields for a start).  So I spent a long time Google-mapping up and down the Northeastern seaboard.  I quite liked Baltimore's Patterson Park for it, but the buildings were all wrong.  Sigh.

I was ready to give up.  But then I thought hey, why not check out all the rectangular city parks in the Midwest?  That would be a good use of a Saturday afternoon. 

Ohio's cities turned out to be a bust.  Nothing looked right until I found some very promising bike lanes beside Washington Park in Chicago.  The Park was wrong, but I felt sure I had the city.  Finally, I reached my destination: the south east corner of Douglas Park. 

Four freaking hours!  That's how much of my Saturday this one cost me.  Was it worth it?  Of course not.  For the love of God, stop this game.  (Perhaps you think it's not your fault I wasted my Saturday and that I should take responsibility for my own actions.  Well that's not how we apply blame here in America.  See the Drug War, etc.)

And oh yeah, the shot seems to have been taken from an upper floor of Mount Sinai Hospital.  I'm gonna guess the 10th floor.  Hope whoever took it is doing OK.

From the photo's submitter:

I work as a radiologist at the hospital and was visiting the IT department on the 10th floor when I saw this shot. I thought it would make a good contest entry.  It is looking south. Clues are the "el" station, the bus stop sign and Cook County jail behind the smoke.  Mt. Sinai is a public aid hospital in a decidedly downscale section of the city, so I imagine, given the demographics of your audience, that relatively few readers have firsthand experience with the area.

Mt. Sinai was founded in 1919 as a 60-bed hospital to serve needy Eastern European immigrants and to train Jewish physicians who were denied educational opportunities elsewhere.  It is now a 320-bed hospital and is the second largest public aid hospital in Illinois.  It serves the Lawndale community on the West Side.  In the '60s and '70s Lawndale, with many other neighborhoods in Chicago, was the victim of "white flight" when the predominantly white working-class and Jewish population moved to the suburbs.  Many hospitals closed or moved.  Sinai changed focus and stayed.  The neighborhood is changing again, with a large influx of mostly Mexican immigrants beginning in the '80s and '90s.

One more reader:

This picture was taken from Sinai Children's Hospital, 1500 S. California Ave, Chicago IL.  Now you want to know the exact window, right?  It's on the south face of the wing that juts out to the south.  Based on how the view seems to line up with the cars in the parking lot, I'll say it's one of the westernmost windows of the three on each floor. Which floor?  Clearly higher than the three- or four-story houses just south of the parking lot.  I'll say the 9th floor, because the horizon is just above the 8th floor of the red building to the southwest (the one with the white sign that says "Loft Space for Lease" – yeah, my eyes are that good, with a little boost from Google maps; it's on W. 21st Street just west of S. Marshall).  Plus, the lower floors have air conditioners, and this one appears not to.

This is the first time I (or really, we; my husband and I did this together) have entered the contest, so we won't win based on previous solutions.  We're shamelessly angling for the sympathy vote.  Last summer you published another view from a Chicago hospital window, the one with the reflection of the medivac helicopter taking off:


My husband submitted that.  I regret to report that last month, just six weeks after completing a very aggressive chemo regimen, new tumor was discovered.

Our thoughts and prayers for a full recovery.