Using SketchUp to Create Town of the Past


There is a small town in Pennsylvania that I would like to portray as it was in the past – 1909, to be precise. The buildings need only to have just enough detail to represent their basic shapes (think Monopoly houses), but I’d really like to use Google Earth to provide the geographic basis of the town, especially since some of the building exist, and I can use them as a reference for those that don’t.

I know about placing Sketchup models into Google Earth, but I don’t want to do that, then mislead people into thinking those buildings exist when they search the town of today. I know I could create the town offline with Google Earth topology, but I’d like people to be able to find it online. Any ideas as to how to go about this would be appreciated. Cheers!


i’ve been doing the same thing…heres a town near Me…Ilkeston Derbyshire England in 1855…i’m updating it to 1929 at the moment…if you look at my Youtube channel…theres a few ive other places built…ok they are Basic Sketchup but i’m very happy with them…

Didn’t use anything from Google Earth…all done from old photographs

Google no longer allows SketchUp models to be uploaded to their system, so you can’t cause your model to be automatically displayed in Google Earth online. The only way today is to export from SketchUp as a kmz file and open that file with a local Google Earth app on a computer.

That’s exactly it. Did you use a map at all? If so, how?


Thanks…I’ll get back to you with more questions. But, that helps!


i looked at a google earth over view and made myself a rough sketch on paper with measurements on it and then worked it out by hand in sketchup…ie…measurements on my sketch were lets say 3 inch x 6 inch…then i knew to make my sketchup twice as wide as long…nothing really accurate but all clever guesswork

Very cool! My little town’s layout is a little more complicated, involving a river and a stream that has changed course a couple times in the course of the last century. My partner and I are choosing 1909 as the time to base the model because that’s when most of the photos of the town was taken. Fortunately, my ancestor’s hotel burnt down the NEXT year, so I can include his hotel in the model.

Did you get any comments from the present inhabitants of the town? I’m doing my project for the benefit of the local historical society.


I’ve been putting the Models on an Ilkeston Bygones group…many nice and grateful comments…lots of positive feedback which is nice…Ive since been asked to do a “tudor” era version of the town by the local ilkeston historical society, that will involve using “sandbox” as it will be a lot of fields and hedgerows…there’s no photos for that, just gonna have to do it from information they supply me with.

This all started for me of modeling the hotel that my 2nd great-grandfather ran just after the American Civil War. There are only a half-dozen photos of it, and – unfortunately – it burned in 1910! I posted an image of the hotel model in a FB group about the town, called Mehoopany, Pennsylvania, and the group went nuts! They were excited about the prospect of modeling the entire town!

I discussed this with a fellow member of the county historical society, and he and I decided that the best era for the model would be around 1909, which is when (1) the town was at its most vibrant and (2) somebody took an amazing number of very detailed photos of the town.

In any case, I went a little overboard on the detail, but here’s a photo of the model in progress:

By the way, my people are from Bath. The man that ran the hotel came to The States around 1835, when he was only 14. I’d love to come visit someday.


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,ve been doing the same and have a facebook page ‘‘south shields cgi’’ getting to be a huge model now but god do I hate hills and slopes …so much so that i ignore em now :slight_smile: it’s how i started learnin SU years ago… so there are some massive geopmetry mistakes…

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Good to know I’ll be back soon to post more.

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I have the same idea for my town (Torrevieja SPAIN). I have to start to recover the old image.



Old postcards of the town – if they made them – are a good place to start! Even though my little town was very small and not to well-known, I’m lucky enough that somebody took the time to take pictures!

Good luck!


Thanks. I have some pictures of the past. Some of them aerial. I’m thinking to make a sketch of the town. And then use the pictures to give more detaill in some buildings.


i,m doing my town as it was in the sixties and the 1900s

That’s awesome! Keep me posted. Thanks for sharing.