Dah-ling I love you but give me Park Avenue…

Recently a friend of mine discovered that the 60’s TV series “Green Acres” was on ME-TV. I have fond memories of that quirky, silly TV series. I grew up in a small town in Nebraska in the 1960s and the weekly antics of the Douglases and their Hooterville neighbors were often the subject of jokes and conversation.

My friend starting wondering where the penthouse was located in New York and found a web forum where this subject was discussed. He found this screen shot and noticed that the two towers to the left are the Waldorf and the tall building in the foreground is the Rose Building. He speculated that this view could be from the top of the UN Secretariat building. So I decided to check Google Earth…

First, in case you were wondering, I DO have better things to do with my time. But it’s 3am and I can’t get back to sleep…

I’m a photographer and commercial drone pilot, and I often use Google Earth to plan photo shoots. I used many of the same tools and techniques to determine the point of view of this scene.

The simplest way to do this would be to move the point of view around in Google Earth to line up the buildings to match this photograph. But there are now several large buildings in the way that were built since the 1960s. Another method would be to draw a triangle with one vertex at the top of the Waldorf and another at ground level and move it around until the side of the triangle matches the viewing angle. That won’t work either because Google Earth doesn’t allow you to draw paths with each point at a different altitude above ground level.

I was just about to start measuring heights of buildings and distances, to do a manual calculation based on a right triangle, but then it occurred to me that I could put placemarks at the right altitude and then visually line up the placemarks. Here’s how I did it.

First, note the “height” of the closer tower on the Waldorf and its relation to the Rose Building. I’ve drawn a horizontal yellow line.

I put a placemark on the Waldorf tower and then went to “properties” and selected “Altitude”:

I then selected “relative to ground” and adjusted the position manually to align the placemark push pin with the top of the tower.

I then repeated this process for the Rose Building, but I put the placemark at the corner of the building and adjusted the altitude of the push pin to line up with the top row of windows, approximately where the yellow line intersects the building in the earlier photo.

Now all I have to do is move the 3D point of view around until those two push pins are at the same relative height and approximate separation, matching the original view. This is not always easy to do, especially with 3D buildings turned on. Google Earth will fight back, not letting you freely maneuver between the buildings. The screen shot below shows an approximate alignment, but there’s this large building in the way now.

Next, turn off 3D buildings and attempt to align the two push pins horizontally. You might have to go into street view mode then switch to ground-level view.

Here I’m getting closer to the correct alignment:

When you think you’ve found the right location, hold down the CTRL key and use the mouse to pan down so you can see where you are.

The next clue is the distinctive pattern of windows of the building in the lower right corner of the video frame. That’s the top of 301 E 47th – Embassy House. Adjusting the camera angle it would appear that the footage was taken from the roof or one of the top floors of the adjacent Albano Building at 305 East 46th.

That’s about as close as I can get to the actual location. If Google Earth allowed individual 3D buildings to be hidden from view, it would be very easy to revert to the 1960s (at least for the buildings that are still there) and determine the exact position of the camera.

The Albano Building was leased to the United Nations in the 1950s, so it’s odd that they chose that building, or it could be that the show’s producers just bought some stock footage that looked like a nice penthouse view. The next building to the west is Dag Hammarskjold Tower, which is the only other building with close to the correct angle of view of Embassy House and the right height.

So assuming that the footage was supposed to be the actual view from their penthouse, Lisa had a view of at least one building that actually is on Park Avenue – the Waldorf.