Finding Places

So what have I been up to?

Well, I’ve been creating data sets for my TomTom GPS navigator. I’ve already uploaded a couple to TomTom: Covered Bridges of New Hampshire (the covered bridges listed by the state Department of Transportation), Historic Bridges of New Hampshire (the bridges listed by either the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places or the US National Register of Historic Places).

Waiting in the wings (to upload pretty soon): Covered Bridges of New England and Historic Bridges of Vermont.

Bridges are easy; they’re highly visible from the air, so they show up well on the “satellite” view of Google Maps.

Waiting to be validated, I have Historic Places of New Hampshire. That’s all the sites in New Hampshire on the US National Register of Historic Places. This isn’t as easy as it seems; for example Goshen, NH, has an array of vertical plank frame houses dating to just after the invention of that world-changing device the water-powered reciprocating saw. They’re small. From the air they’re indistinguishable from hen houses and corn cribs. And they’re frequently obscured by trees.

Cheshire County, New Hampshire, is a maze of twisty little one-and-a-half-story Cape-style shingle-sided farm houses, all alike. All of them, it seems, are on the National Register. The location information in the National Register can be anything from yards to miles off (datum changed, among other things). Searching for a street address on Google Maps can give you … bizarre … results, particularly in more rural areas. So for those locations that are questionable, I’m scouting them out on the ground.

(For those sites that are “address restricted” I’m using the position of the nearest post office.)

In the course of this I’ve learned a lot about the historic places of New Hampshire (since in the course of locating the sites I’ve read all the approved nominations explaining why one or another place should be on the national register in the first place); for example, that the Catherine Fiske Seminary For Young Ladies (now the Keene State College president’s house), had the first pianos and the first pipe organ in their town.

Which brings us around to the point of this post. I’m trying to put together a database for the TomTom navigator of Independent Bookstores of New England. So here are some words of advice for merchants everywhere who might want people to find them:

  • Have a web page.
  • On that web page, have your address and phone number, but not just as a graphic; have it in a form that someone can copy and paste, and that Google can index.
  • On your web page include a large recent photo showing your establishment from the road.
  • On your web page include written directions to your store, including landmarks such as “next door to” and “across the street from.”
  • Depending on local zoning, have a big-enough-to-see-from-the-road sign on your store with your business’s name on it so that when the Google Street View Car comes by it’ll show your store.
  • Speaking of Google, go to Google Maps yourself and make sure (a) your store is marked, and (b) that it’s in the right location.
  • It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have your street address number prominently posted and visible from the road (if nothing else your local fire and ambulance squads will thank you).
  • Last: GPS units are cheap and easy to find. You don’t need to learn how to use a sextant or hit a U.S. National Geodetic Survey quadrangle map with parallel rulers and dividers to find your latitude and longitude. Step outside of the door of your shop, find your lat/long, and post it on your web page.

Come on, folks, make it easy for me.

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3 Responses to Finding Places

  1. jamesdmacdonald says:

    By the way, if you have a favorite indie bookstore in New England, here might be a good place to post its name and address.

  2. Laurence Brothers says:

    I’m pretty sure you know about Pandemonium Books in Cambridge. I used to know others in the Boston area, but they’ve all closed. Sigh. Well, Rodney’s Bookstore around the corner from Pandemonium on Mass Ave isn’t horrible, anyway.

  3. jamesdmacdonald says:

    I do indeed have Pandemonium: it’s at 42.36625 North, 71.10557, West. Phone is 6175473721

    I had not, however, gotten Rodney’s, which I see now is at 42.365950, -71.104724, phone 6178766467

    This is a work in progress

    If anyone wants a copy of my database, in the form of a CSV (comma separated variable) file, let me know.

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