Thanks to a new feature from Google, we can now watch the Germantown area grow from space over the last 32 years. Google’s Timelapse is a “global, zoomable video that lets you see how the Earth has changed over the past 32 years.” It allows us to watch Germantown go from a mostly rural farm community to the bustling urbanized outpost it is today.
Timelapse also us to watch Germantown, Clarksburg, and any other part of the Earth to grow and change over time. Made up of satellite imagery from each of the years from 1984 until 2016, Timelapse starts in 1984 and allows us to see the creation of Little Seneca Lake with the flooding of Ten Mile Creek. By 1987 it is fully flooded. One constant is I-270 as it cuts through Montgomery County and the CXS/MARC train tracks can be seen cutting through Germantown.
In 1984 the U.S. Census estimated the population of Montgomery County was 632,915 and a very small portion of which lived in the Germantown area. In 1984, there was no Lake Churchill in Germantown and Great Seneca Highway was not built yet. However, Seneca Valley High School can be seen as a white square near the middle, surrounded by the tan earth of the construction of the residential homes near Gunners Lake and Wisteria Drive to Warring Station Road.
In 1986 we can see Germantown Commons and UpCounty Regional Services Center on Middlebrook Road begin to take shape as the white “L” shaped cluster of buildings just up the road from Seneca Valley High School.
By 1987, the residential areas of Waters Landing begin to take shape and construction begins on Great Seneca Highway. In 1988, construction starts on the homes in the Germantown Estates neighborhood.
In 1990, the U.S. Census estimated the population of Montgomery County was 762,875. Germantown is still a very small portion of that total, but the 1990s are a period of great expansion as a large shopping center and second high school are added to the area.
In 1994, the Clopper Mill Village shopping center and the surrounding neighborhoods begin to take shape, as does the creation of Observation Drive in the northern portion of Germantown. Further north, the neighborhood around Sally Ride Elementary School in begin construction.
One year later, in 1995, construction begins on the Milestone Shopping Center at Rt. 355 and Ridge Road/MD Rt. 27. Soon after that, in 1996 and 1997, the bulk of the Milestone residential neighborhood begins construction. In 1997, Germantown gets its second high school, as Northwest High School begins construction. In 1999, work begins on the Kingsview Village Center/Giant Store and the Fountain Hills neighborhoods off Clopper Road.
In 2000, the U.S. Census estimated the population of Montgomery County was 873,341, and Germantown is now big enough to get its own census designation. The population of in 2000 Germantown was 66,007, which makes up 7.6 percent of Montgomery County.
The new millennium marks the beginning of construction of the Maryland SoccerPlex, which can be seen in the satellite imagery. The year 2000 also sees the Germantown Town Center along Century Boulevard begin to take shape.
In 2001, construction of the Vistas at Woodcliffe Park in Boyds begins as the western end of Ritcher Farm Road takes shape.
In the mid-2000s, construction development shifts to the sleep town just north of Germantown, as construction of Clarksburg Village begins in 2004 and work starts on Clarksburg High School in 2005. In 2011, work begins on Clarksburg Village residences along MD Rt.27.
By 2010 the population of Germantown is now 86,395, according to U.S. Census. In 2012, the expansion of Montgomery College’s Germantown Campus begins with the construction of Holy Cross Hospital starting.
In 2013, work begins on the residential area known as Cabin Branch and shortly thereafter in 2015, work begins on the Clarksburg Premium Outlets shopping center.
Google has used 33 cloud-free annual mosaics, one for each year from 1984 to 2016 to create the video. You can click on each year individually or allow it to loop over and over again. The mosaics were made explorable by Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab’s Time Machine library, a technology for creating and viewing zoomable and pannable timelapses over space and time.
This project by Google combines over 5 million satellite images acquired by 5 different satellites. The majority of the images come from Landsat, a joint USGS/NASA Earth observation program that has observed the Earth since the 1970s. For 2015 and 2016, Google combined Landsat 8 imagery with imagery from Sentinel-2A, part of the European Commission and European Space Agency’s Copernicus Earth observation program.
Images courtesy Google Timelapse.