The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #206


A reader writes:

This looks to me like a view of the Alexandra Bridge that connects Ottawa, Ontario with Gatineau (Hull), Québec, taken on the Gatineau side (call it 2km NE of Parliament Hill). I used to ride my bike along the Ottawa River, on both the Ontario and Québec sides, and this looks familiar, if not 100% right. But I can’t name the building.

Another totally e-mails it in:

The blue banner on the light post is clearly shaped like Vietnam, so (equally clearly) the picture must be from Hanoi.


I’m pretty sure this is taken from the eastern bank of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. I feel like I’ve walked on that bridge and that is the fairly new bike path they’ve built. This is my first time entering. I do love the contest. It would be baller to get it right the first time!

Another rookie:

Very first attempt! My guess is Louisville, in the park along the Ohio River, where there is a memorial to Abraham Lincoln. The bridge is a former railway bridge to Indiana, and is now used as a bike or running bridge.

Another stays in the South:

Probably not right, but it looks so damn much like Brown’s Island Park in Richmond, VA. I’ve run on the James River North Bank Trail that ends at that park. The bridge design and river look so insanely like Richmond, but the picture’s just slightly off. Who knows, maybe I’m insanely wrong.

Or wanting to be:

Augusta, Georgia. I hope I’m wrong.

Several others were wrong about the man from Hope:

Clinton Presidential Museum, Little Rock, Arkansas. I knew it the minute I saw the railroad trestle.  The museum is nestled just on the edge of Little Rock in one of the prettiest settings.  I visited it during an International Master Gardener Conference a few years ago.

Little Rock was the most popular incorrect guess this week. The most popular correct guess attracted 117 entries – a whopping 84% of the total submitted. One of those correct readers:

First impression was: Upper Midwest due to the rail bridge, somewhere in Minnesota or Iowa on the Mississippi. Then I realized way too flat for Saint Paul or Minneapolis and the adgate snip west scramentorest of the Mississippi valley. Usually my gut is right on these things, but a bit of searching for a double-decker bridge brings one to West Sacramento, California.

You’ll have lots of people who’ll get the location, but Google Streetview only has a 2007 photo of the building under construction or a more recent bad angle shot from the street (damn you Google for not having the foresight to send a rogue self driving car to that spot).  Nonetheless I’ve attached my guess on the right window. The obsessive Dishheads will spend hours on the angles, cosines, etc, and a few may resort to psychotropics, peak beard, or a bear with a divining rod. Lacking access to any of these I’ll go with with the 6th floor, room 659 and the fat red X. I await being corrected by Doug Chini. But the city location was easy: if a slacker like me can find it in 15 minutes, the heat map of West Sacramento will show one huge blue dot.

He’s sure right about that:

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Another reader squeals:

IGotOneIGotOneIGotOne!  As all the train-and-bridge spotters have figured out, a Google search of “railroad swing bridge double” served up the “I” Street bridge in Sacramento lickety quick, and maps revealed the 100 Waterfront Place building.  I’m sure the pros have already sussed out the latitude, longitude, elevation, time of day, temperature, paint color, bar menu, beagle population and average beard length of the neighborhood, and then taken the rest of the afternoon off for beer and volleyball.  They can have it; i’ll just bask in the satisfaction knowing I beat one of these things.

An elaborate visual entry:


Marriage finally pays off for this contestant:

My lovely wife of nearly 40 years is pretty tolerant of me, especially when I call her over to the computer, point at a VFYW picture, and ask where she thinks it is. Usually she just shrugs, says “no idea”, and heads off to more important things. To my amazement, this week she looked at the picture for about 5 seconds and said “I Street Bridge”, not as a question but as a statement. She is a Sacramento native, so I guess I should not be too surprised.

Another goes into detail about one of the central clues:

The first thing I did was search for images of double-decker railroad bridges. The search led within a few minutes to this page showing the I Street Bridge on the site It describes the bridge in detail and includes a photo gallery, map links and street views. (, by the way, looks like it’s going to be an invaluable resource in future window contests involving American bridges.)

From there, identifying the building the window is in was as easy as falling off a piece of cake: California State Teachers’ Retirement System, at 100 Waterfront Pl in West Sacramento, California. This modified Google Earth view shows the angle of the photograph indicating roughly where the window is.

VFYW 5-26 Camera Angle1

The I Street Bridge, by the way, was completed in 1911; its two decks accommodate rail and highway traffic. It’s of a type known as a swing bridge, which means that the center span of the bridge pivots to allow boats to pass, as seen here:


Several readers flagged this blog post about the I Street Bridge written by California bridge engineer Mark Yashinsky:

A swing railroad bridge has stood at this site since 1858. The current double-deck bridge was built in 1911. Note the round pivot pier supporting the swing span. This bridge is 840 ft long with a 340 ft long swing span. A 34 ft tall boat can pass under it at low tide. Otherwise, the captain must signal to the bridge operator to get through. Boaters need to check with the US Coast Guard when planning a trip to find out the bridge’s hours of operation. …

This is one of the largest center bearing swing bridges ever built. It weighs about 6800 kips. At the turn of the 19th century, such big swing bridges had rim bearings with rollers along the perimeter. When this large bridge was successfully built and operated with a center bearing, no one wanted to go through the trouble of fabricating the conical rollers that supported a rim bearing swing bridge and they were no longer built.

Another reader found an additional bridge resource:

Once more the VFYW contest has been a learning opportunity.  I came to realize after some hours of poking about that without a base in bridge terminology, finding this thing wasn’t going to be a snap.  I tried every combination I could think of involving steel bridge, railroad-bridge, double-decker, riverwalk, river park.  Eventually a likely-but-too-tiny-to-tell icon showed up, and that led me to, which would have been great if only I’d already known where in the world I thought this bridge was to search their database efficiently. But introduced me to the descriptors I needed: steel truss bridge, swing bridge.  If only I’d known those terms to begin with!  A search for “steel truss bridge” delivered the culprit about 200 images down in a few moments of skimming the Google images result, unmistakable (it’s amazing how subtly distinguishable steel truss bridges are one from another, though).

Then I realized that I had ridden Amtrak over that very bridge on my way home to the Bay Area from Manhattan just two months ago.

Another skipped the bridge for a different clue:

Three in a row for me, and a chance to avenge a past near-miss! Early last year I had narrowed a view to Sacramento on little more than hunches, a red curb, and fertile farmland near a sizeable city. But having no luck scanning Google Earth or proof I even had the right city, I called off the search. In my personal tally it wears an asterisk, a badge of shame on my record.

But goddammit, this week we’re straight-up comin’ atcha from the neighboring town of West Sacramento, CA. Nothing fancy this week – didn’t even flex my bridgespotting muscles. Just stared at the letters on the pavement and wrote out twelve blank spaces on a sheet of paper, Wheel of Fortune-style. Funny thing, I was listening to a recording of Bruce Springsteen’s recent Charlotte show when I finally made out what it read: E Street Plaza. A few of those about, but not hard to whittle down.

The pic is from the California Teachers Retirement System Building, seventhish floor. No doubt shot from the employee break room, where somebody recently ate Alice’s sandwich even though she clearly wrote her name on it. Turkey and Swiss with avocado because it’s California.

More word-gaming:

I started with the letters on the walkway. I could tell there are 12 letters, but they were very difficult to make out. Did you know that ‘Extravaganza’ is the only english word I could find with 12 letters and ends with za?

Eventually I went with “streetplaza”, although I could not make out the first letter and had to go through the alphabet until I found a picture of a train trestle crossing a river. It is actually a train/automobile swing bridge – the I Street Bridge – that spans the Sacramento River and connects West Sacramento to Sacramento. One can see Interstate 5 in the background. Based on the shadows the picture was taken in the late morning.


This reader had to step back:

The giveaway clue is the yellow writing – which, in this case, was a “full Monet”: more easily decipherable from a distance, rather than zooming in. I got the “STREET PLAZA” pretty quickly, but what was that first character? It had to be a letter – so my first instinct was to go to DC, but the lack of East Coast buildup suggested otherwise.

I started Google Mapping “[letter] STREET PLAZA”, and discovered that several towns in California are named by single letters – San Diego, Modesto, Merced – and checking for cities with rivers, and especially railroad bridges over them, Sacramento’s E Street Plaza was quickly identifiable!

Another method focused on the economic evidence:

I was pretty certain this was somewhere in the Midwest, based on the flat terrain and old-style railroad trestle. After doing some unsuccessful image searching for railroad bridges in Iowa and Illinois, I started thinking about that riverfront walk. Not just any city can afford to re-do their riverfront like that (with the old-style lightposts, the landscaping and the facilities). This would need to be a medium-sized city with a decent economy to justify that kind of public spending on their riverfront. I started thinking of cities that were focusing on riverfront redevelopment, and as a native Californian, Sacramento popped into my head. Sure enough, that bridge came up at the top of my search, making this one of my fastest (and luckiest) VFYWs yet!

A former winner geeks out with some labels and factoids:

contest pic with labels

Several peculiar items can be seen in this week’s picture. First, the large tower on the left side of the picture is part of a police communications center.  Watch one of the dishes being removed here.  Second, in the middle of the picture there seems to be a pipe climbing out of the berm across the river.  It turns out to be one of NOAA’s numerous water gauges that monitors river crests and flooding.  Third, the faint smokestack on the right hand side of the picture is the Sacramento Tower.  Built over a hundred years ago at the city incinerator, it was climbed for the first time by a local rock climber.  He dedicated his ascent to the Americans taken hostage by Iran.  Slightly odd and inefficient means of communication, but I’m sure the hostages appreciated the gesture.

Another provides some detail about the building:

The photographer took this from CalSTRS, which according to Wikipedia “is the largest teacher’s retirement fund in the US”. It’s also the 8th largest public pension fund in the US. But it pails against the largest public fund in the state – CalPERS, which is #2 over all. CalPERS funding is also a bone of contention here in the state because of the unfunded contributions owed to it by many cities, counties and of course the state itself. Because of these unfunded liabilities, a couple of cities have filled for bankruptcy. Many more might follow.

Another casts a critical eye:

I don’t know much about economics and stuff, but even I know that the pension fund for California’s underpaid state teachers should not be headquartered in a 19-story, $266 million gorgeous monstrosity of glass and steel that was built for the purpose:


I’ll leave it to more qualified readers to say if this is capitalism run amok or socialism run amok, but it’s clearly one or the other, and quite possibly both. Seriously, CALSTRS. When you’re dwarfing the neighbors, and the neighbors happen to live in a ziggurat, that’s when you know you’ve overdone it.

Update from a reader who works at the building:

CalSTRS is the 2nd largest public pension fund in the US (by value of assets), not the 8th. CalPERS is the largest.

As far as socialism or capitalism running amok, I’ll just say that the workers here – a very dedicated lot, in my opinion as an outside consultant in organizational behavior – were in multiple and decrepit quarters before this building was built, and now they are in an environmentally healthy and sustainable building. And the only reason it dwarfs its neighbors is that it’s not in downtown Sacramento. Were it a bit more to the east, it would be dwarfed by a bunch of … wait for it … banks.

Finally, the view was taken from a conference room. The employee break room is in the middle of the floor. Nobody here steals anyone else’s sandwich.

On to the winner selection. The photo was taken from the fifth floor, but as is often the case, many readers wrote that their choice was the fifth floor but then circled a window on another floor. Most of these guesses started with the exterior window and then attempted to discern the floor number incorrectly. The following reader found a useful link for better understanding the layout of the building and which floor is which:

The CALSTRS office was finished in 2007 and was constructed to have low emissions and energy-use, enough so that some researchers at UC-Berkeley used it in a case study of environmentally-friendly building design.

The photo’s submitter said that the window “is in the northeast corner of the building on the 5th floor.” That makes the following reader the only one to guess it exactly right:

We’re looking out at the I Street Bridge. A quick image search for double-decker truss bridges got things narrowed down. I have no idea how the building offices are numbered, but I’m going to guess that this was taken from the 5th floor corner window closest to the river, facing the bridge.

Congrats to our winner on what is essentially an upset over many more experienced players. Among them:


Meanwhile, a former winner writes:

I dunno, 12th floor? Chini’s going to be like, “Well it looks like from the ground it’s about a 65.12265578456132° angle and it was taken about 10 minutes after the submitter, who’s a Scorpio, had a turkey sandwich and a Sprite at their desk, which is located approximately 52 feet from the elevator.” Seriously how has the CIA not contacted him yet? OR HAVE THEY?

Chini, who was actually off by two floors this week, marks his second anniversary with the contest:

The first view I ever found was posted on May 26, 2012 (VFYW #104), so it’s nice that we’ve returned to the state where this odd little journey began two years ago. Back then the contest seemed impossible, so I was disappointed when my entry for that week wasn’t published. But if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again …

Here’s that entry from his first week:

Years of reading the Dish and finally I got one! This week’s VFW shows a row of buildings on Albion Street in Mendocino, California. The picture was taken from the southernmost of three side windows on the second floor of Odd Fellows Hall located at 10480 Kasten Street between Albion and Ukiah, or 39°18’20.01″N and 123°48’5.94″W. Originally built in 1878 as a meeting house, it’s used today primarily for local art exhibitions.

As for locating the reader’s building, the key was the water tower. A Google search for wooden water towers will bring up quite a few in Mendocino, including a view that is a near mirror image of the one your reader submitted. Much like last week’s contest, the buildings’ style threw me off a bit, as my first guess was Maine. (According to Wikipedia the town was settled by former New Englanders who brought their architecture with them, so much so that Mendocino was used as the setting of the fictional Cabot Cove, Maine in the TV show Murder, She Wrote).

Finding the particular window was a bit harder. The rearmost of the three second floor windows is blocked up, but the first two were prime candidates. To choose between them I focused on the reflections of the building’s thin front windows that are faintly visible in your reader’s picture. The rapid increase in their apparent width looking left to right meant that the shot was likely taken from the front-most side window; from a position near the middle side window, those reflections would appear much more uniform in width.

Finally, having never been there, but having been to the Marin Headlands down the coast, it sure seems like a nice place for a getaway weekend!

(Archive: Text|Gallery)