Google Maps can show you the locations of some Chicago area ghost towns

A journalist details some of the ghost towns in the south suburbs of Chicago that pop up on Google Maps:

Photo by John-Mark Smith on

Perhaps kept alive by the unrealized optimism of their founders, places such as East Orland, Rexford, Alpine Heights and Goeselville are long gone, but still show up as potential destinations on internet atlases such as Google Maps…

But Google “Alpine, Illinois” and the algorithm will pinpoint the long-forgotten downtown area of Alpine Heights at 167th Street and 108th Avenue…

“It amuses me that Goeselville still shows up on maps,” Bettenhausen said. “I can’t explain why this happens, because it really was not much more than a post office.”

I assumed Google Maps and other online mapping options are drawing on modern cartographic information. Does this mean this information includes older communities that have not officially existed for decades or that Google Maps draws on historical information as well?

I could imagine an improved Google Maps that is able to show places as they existed in the past. There is a small version of this available right now with Google Street View. If you walk along a street, you can often pull up a previous version of the same view. This only goes back less than two decades but you can still observe changes.

Imagine Google Maps with pictures of former buildings, how roadways used to appear, and older names. You might be able to peel back the layers and look at a place in the 1990s or the 1950s or the 1910s. It would take a lot of work to find and put together all of these images but the ability to see how places are transformed would be fascinating.

Take these suburban ghost towns. Imagine being able to see an old post office or train station. You might then compare what is there today. To do this today, this might require searching for older images online or going to a local historical society to find images.

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