by Chris Bodenner
A reader furrows his brow:
This is a toughie. A nondescript scene of a generic Midwest downtown. The only clue I see is the low rise of hill in the near distance, which suggests that there is a moderate-sized river at its base. I’m just taking a guess with Iowa City, Iowa. Or it could be Council Bluffs, or Sioux City or …
Another heads south:
I don’t have time for searching this week so I’ll just go with my first impression. It’s someplace in the USA amid rolling hills or ridges and it peaked economically in the 1950s. I’m reminded of northeast Oklahoma, so I’ll guess Tahlequah.
The West Virginia cities of Morgantown and Charleston were also choices. One of only two non-US guesses:
Something about the VFYW picture this week seems French to me, but not in an obvious way. I’m going to go with Lausanne, Switzerland in the French part of Switzerland as my guess. My second guess is Montreal, Canada.
The other reader got thrown off by the photo’s untimely nature:
Totally looks like Minnesota or environs at first glance. But where ever it is, it looks like fall; so I’m going Southern Hemisphere and taking a stab at Hobart, Tasmania.
The photo looks like fall because it was sent to us last November. (We often have to reach back into our archives because suitable window views for the contest are hard to find.) Another reader heads to the Northeast:
As soon as I saw this picture, I thought: New Brunswick, NJ … maybe the Rutgers campus? Perhaps from a dormitory window? Not that I’ve ever been to Rutgers. And while I made a few trips to New Brunswick back in 2000 and 2001 (I had Johnson & Johnson as a client), I don’t remember any details. And yet it came instantly to mind. That’s as far as I can get. I went on Google Images looking for the graffiti tag MEKAN (still not sure I’m reading it correctly), and got plenty of hits – but none in this “font.” (Which in itself was interesting – is Mekan a real name?)
Another spots the tag from a different angle:
East Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania? I’m only guessing this because I got lost through this town one way, trying to find a quick place to get some food after my wife was recovering from giving birth at the nearby hospital. Wild guess but I felt it was worth a try. The place does look likes it’s up in the mountains somewhere, and the buildings seem to have that appearance of collegiate uniformity.
Another college try:
This is a photo taken from the roof of a building next to the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs – the building with the white window frames – and its extension, the Eggers Building to its left, looking out over the western part of the campus and Syracuse University. I am a 1994 M.A. in Political Science alum of the Maxwell School’s Program on the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts (PARC) at Syracuse University. Go Orange!
I have no idea. Feels like the Northeast: tree, architecture, bricks, light. I generally do OK regarding latitude on the VFYWs, so let’s see … Worcester, Massachusetts?
Remarkable guess: the latitude of both cities is 42.2 degrees. But the window isn’t in the Northeast. Another goes with the Northwest:
Finally, you publish a VFYW contest photo of Seattle, Washington! Even though I’ve lived there for over 30 years and can’t quite put my finger on the exact Univ Washington campus location where your photographer snapped that pic, those orange-red bricks were used to build almost every building on campus. The extra bricks were used to pave Red Square.
Another gets the right state:
Detroit, Michigan? Only because that looks like a Mekan graffiti tag, and I’ve seen it around Detroit, albeit never on a non-descript rooftop that could be virtually anywhere they sell York air conditioners!
Another nails the right city:
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Another picks it up for a bit of standup:
SO easy! I just Googled “American cities with rooftops,” and voila – up popped Ann Arbor! It also gave me the exact window. The fifth floor in the School of Law Building, University of Michigan. How nice to have an easy view for a change.
P.S. Lord have mercy. I’m passing this one on to Chini.
Chini and the overwhelming number of the 100 entrants went with Ann Arbor. Below is a map illustrating how relatively easy the contest was this week:
Thanks to Chas for plotting the coordinates and putting together the composite image seen below. Another reader begins the hunt for the right window:
This was a very interesting contest for people not familiar with Ann Arbor. My starting clues were the tagging on the rooftop in the middle of the view and the twin small domes to the left. Searching “Mekan” found a number of links to a tagger active in Ann Arbor and Detroit, but searching images for twin domes in Ann Arbor or Detroit was less useful (including churches in the search was not helpful). But searching images for Michigan Theater helped to further connect the clues. It took a while to figure out the the view was looking at the “back” of the theater façade top:
Another gets close to the right building:
I think the photo is taken from Corner House Apts., 205 State Street, fourth floor southwest corner, 2nd south facing window from the corner. It is renting to students, for about $2000-2500, which they assume 2-4 people are sharing. In the background is the Ashley Mews Building, with the white stripe and the black upper floors. The two little cupolas sticking up are 603 E. Liberty Street, the historic Michigan Theater.
Across the street is Lane Hall: “Today, with space wholly dedicated to the Women’s Studies Department and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Lane Hall is the University’s center of research and teaching about gender. Jointly sponsored art exhibits, a succession of intellectual events throughout the year, and casual social interactions among researchers, faculty, students, and staff have made Lane Hall into an intellectually vibrant feminist community.”
As a proud Ann Arborite I had to brag a little bit about some of the history that’s within half a block of where this picture was taken. The older looking building across the street is Lane Hall. It was built in 1917 and has had many uses – it is currently part of the women’s studies department. For several decades it was the center of religious, social, and philosophical debate on campus. In the late 1930s there was a series of lectures called “The Existence and Nature of God.” The lecturers were Bertrand Russell, Catholic Bishop Fulton Sheen, and Reinhold Niebuhr – sounds like just your cup of tea, Andrew.
If the camera were facing southeast instead of southwest we would see Hill Auditorium – which just celebrated it’s 100th Anniversary last year. Pretty much every great classical musician of the 20th century performed there. A documentary on its history just won an Emmy.
And just to the north used to be the University High School – whose most famous graduate was probably James Osterberg Jr. (aka Iggy Pop).
Some other rock history:
Prior to being torn down for the CVS, the building housed a cramped recording studio upstairs. My high school band, Eye Guy, recorded and produced an album there one late night in 1997: Descent of the Astral Canary.
Back to the window hunt:
From a father-son team:
We both took the “Mekan” graffiti as a starting point, something that immediately indicates Ann Arbor. Of course, graffiti can vary wildly, etc., so this was not dispositive. What clinched it were clues dad took from the HVAC units on the visible roofs. In the background are two extremely large-scale units; in the foreground, he adds, on top of what we now know is a CVS, are three condenser units indicative of a bar, restaurant, or other building with heavy cooling needs. That such a building would be directly across from a two-story Georgian Revival hall-type building, and in close company with other high-demand structures, strongly indicated to him that this was a university.
From there, it’s back to HVAC. Those units with visible labels are branded “York,” which distributes primarily (but not exclusively) in the north and northeast. Putting this all together, I started looking at northern universities with Georgian Revival buildings, and started with Ann Arbor. Street views of the campus turned up streetlights similar to the one in the view. Then it was just a matter of finding the right building.
Another building guess:
The graffiti gives the city away, and after a little sleuthing on Street View, the picture is either taken from a room in the back of the Bell Tower hotel or a nearby building. I will leave the maps and arrows to the experts and guess The Bell Tower Hotel, fourth floor, say room 424.
Another nails the right one:
This is my first entry, and it’s the first time I’ve ever been able to get even a VFYW city correct, so I’m terribly excited! I’m also thrilled that I got to learn a lot about the state of Ann Arbor graffiti in the process, luckily finding another great view of this same graffiti on Flickr. I’m pretty sure the photo is taken from the 202 South Thayer building on 202 South Thayer Street, Ann Arbor, MI. I couldn’t find a floor plan, so I’m just going to guess that it’s taken from the 4th floor, right at the southwest corner of the building, looking out the southernmost west-facing window.
Another 202 South Thayer entry:
Oooh, thanks a lot, nothing but rooftops and a narrow angle on a drab, nondescript cityscape. If I lived next door to this window I wouldn’t recognize the view. At least there’s one Googleable thing in it, though: the graffiti on the roof in center frame. It’s legible, thank goodness, so when I searched for “MEKAN” I found several references to a tagger who goes by that moniker and has been much discussed around Ann Arbor, Michigan. But then image searches for MEKAN hit a dead end because no one appears ever to have posted a shot of the particular tag on view.
Oh well, so then I tried simple searches for anything involving graffiti in Ann Arbor and I found several references to a place the locals call “Graffiti Alley,” which apparently is a much bruited about local attraction (this video will give you the idea):
It’s said to be next door to the Michigan Theater on Liberty Street, so that called for a quick peak at it on Streetview and Voila! No more searching necessary. We’ve arrived: there’s that brick-red monolith, the MEKAN tag, that pair of little white domes that are in the left of the view photo.
So it appears this week’s window is in the rear of the 202 South Thayer Building, on – you guessed it – South Thayer Street. Six-stories, university property, it houses four departments and is one of the few VFYWs not shot from a hotel window. I’m going to guess the Near Eastern Studies Dept., which seems to occupy the fourth floor. Any higher or lower seems unlikely, and since I’ve won my copy of the book already, then what the hell, I’ll flip a coin.
Among the few dozen readers who went with 202 South Thayer:
But the winner this week is the only correct guesser of a previous difficult contest who hasn’t yet won:
I haven’t entered one of these in a few years, but this one seemed doable, which of course means it will be the most correct responses ever and that my success will be meaningless, but here it is anyway. I started with googling “Mekan graffiti,” a pretty long shot strategy, I thought. But that led me to Ann Arbor, which fit with the general look of the picture, so I figured it was worth looking around for the red building with one window at the top center of the view. I finally found it in a nighttime view of the city, and then had to locate it on Google Maps based on that.
As depicted in the attached “Pic 1,” I drew a line from that window to the tree in front of the building with the distinctive doorway on the right hand side of the view, which confirmed that I was looking at a building above / behind / next to the CVS on S State Street:
I then spent way too long looking at the apartment building above the Buffalo Wild Wings – pulling up the property management company’s website, foursquare, yelp, anything to get a sense of which window I was looking for. After thinking for a while that the window must be pretty far back in the apartment building, I went back to my Pic 1 arrow and extended it, seeing that obviously I should be looking at the building behind the apartments. Circling the block on street view got me the address, 202 South Thayer:
Unless this is somehow the first email you’re reading, I’m sure you’re familiar with the details already, but the street view is looking south from E Washington Street, with the apartment building on the right and 202 South Thayer on the Left. I’m going with the third story window on the SW corner of the building, since it’s got to be taller than the CVS, but not by much.
Thanks for a fun, if occasionally maddening Sunday morning.
Let’s see how the winner matched up with Chini this week:
Back when I was figuring out where to go to law school I took a day trip to see U. Michigan. Unfortunately, I showed up on just about the rainiest, dreariest day of the year and chose to spend my three years in Ithaca instead; if I was gonna be cold, at least I’d be closer to NYC. If only the weather had been nicer …
This week’s view comes from Ann Arbor, Michigan. The picture was taken from the fourth floor of the Near Eastern/Judaic Studies Centers at 202 South Thayer Street and looks west southwest along a heading of 256.65 degrees. The pic was snapped around 4:41 in the afternoon, on or around November 3rd of last year, from the hallway window between rooms 4080 and 4028.
A marked view of the window is attached, as are an overhead view incorporating a blueprint of the interior and a view from the same height as the International Space Station, because why the heck not?
The photo was actually taken at 1.07 pm, revealing that Doug Chini is, in fact, human. From the submitter:
I’m thrilled to see that chose my photo for this week’s contest. It was also a great relief, because I was traveling all weekend, and had time to look at the contest only late Sunday night, thinking oh God, if this looks like I might be able to solve it, it is going to keep me up for several more hours, and I need some sleep. But then, it looked really familiar, and I could go right to bed.
I don’t remember what level of detail I gave you when I sent it in, which must have been back in the fall. So this is 202 S. Thayer St., the so-called Thayer Academic Building, 4th floor, the hallway window at the southwestern corner, looking west. Those who get the window right will then also know which area of the world I teach …
Looking forward to many interesting guesses.
By far the most interesting one this week comes from a reader who went window-hunting on foot, armed with a camera. From the end of his photo series:
Once on the scene, it was obvious that the elevation was too high. The view did not line up correctly with the building in the lower right hand corner on State Street. So, moving down one level, to the sixth floor of the structure, I came upon …
We had a laugh about running into each other and how we were both afraid of security.
From the other intrepid Dishhead:
I’ve worked on this with my daughter – a past VFYW winner and multiple correct-guesser – and since I live in Ann Arbor it was easy for me to visit the adjacent parking structure to check out sight lines and architectural details. While I was checking things out this morning in the structure, a guy in a white shirt and tie approached me, and I figured it was parking management coming to find out just what in hell I was doing wandering around taking photos. It turns out he’s a fellow Dish reader and VFYW contestant who came to investigate the same location I was! I’ve attached a short video clip I shot of him: