A bird’s eye view of Maine’s changing cities since 1984

Imagine you’ve been aboard a spacecraft, orbiting over Bangor at least once a year since 1984.

That’s basically what Google’s satellite time lapse search is like, using images collected by Google Earth. You can have the basic orbiting experience without all the space miles. Just press play (click below the year to change the speed of the time lapse).

You can certainly spot the Bangor Mall, opened in 1978, taking shape in the upper right hand corner of the map. Buildings at the airport come and go, Eastern Fine Paper in South Brewer closes and becomes a Cianbro site for modular building construction.

The maps don’t provide a hard numbers look at economic changes in the state, but perhaps just another perspective.

In Portland, you can see the new airport terminal appear in 2011 and industrial buildings pop up around Riverside Street. South Portland’s waterfront gets new industrial buildings and development around the Southern Maine Community College campus, too.

In the Lewiston area, you can see Wal-Mart’s distribution center take shape in the city’s southern corner and the Auburn Mall fan out just south of Lake Auburn. To the east of the city, you can see signs of CMP’s $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Plan, with trees cleared to the east for rebuilding of two power lines and the company’s Larrabee Road substation being built.

I would be remiss not to mention that you can search for these time-lapse maps, from 1984 through 2012, for any place in the country, at varying resolutions.

Perhaps the most visually impressive example comes from Nevada, in Las Vegas. Google uses that time lapse as its intro, and you can see why.

Growing up out West myself, it made me want to look up my hometown, which the Transamerica Corp. built up from ranch land in the 1950s as a rural suburban oasis — promising “Country Living” — for Los Angeles. The neighboring City of Industry, a snaking and sprawling city zoned mostly for industrial uses — and known for an Arrested Development appearance and past and current corruption investigations — is seen advancing north.

Look up any city, town or forested area you like at Google’s Earth Engine page and let me know what other stories you see in the satellite images in the comments.

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.