Historic Aerial Photography

Historic aerial photography is a valuable resource used to determine previous and changes in land-use patterns. Hardcopy versions of older aerial photography is available, but can be faded, worn, are difficult to share, are located in only one county department (if at all), and are difficult to use with related land information.

In 2007 Washington County initiated a project to improve access to and the usability of historic aerial photography. To get the best product possible, the film negatives were used as the data source. Negatives from 1990, 1980, 1970, and 1963 flights were obtained from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and negatives from 1950 and 1941 flights were obtained from the National Archives Records Administration. For each year, the individual scanned images were mosaicked, edge matched, dodge and manually edited for consistency to clean up seam lines and other issues. The images were acquired during leaf-off condition. The resulting datasets are georeferenced, but are not true orthophotographs. Some edge matching and positional accuracy issues, most prominently in the older datasets, exist.

In 2011 a second project was completed to acquire historic aerial imagery from 1985. The 2011 project was completed to the same specification developed during the original 2001 project. Negatives for this project were obtained from SEWRPC.

Orthophotography from 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015 is also available. See the orthophotography page for additional information.

    The historic aerial photography was created for use in a variety of county functions. Washington County does not guaranty the fitness of this data for any other use. The historic aerial photography should not be used for legal, survey, engineering, financial, tax or other professional advice. If specific or precise information is required, you should always use the original recorded documents, surveys, plats, flood insurance studies, or other official means. Washington County specifically disclaims liability for damages of any kind resulting from the misuse or misrepresentation of any information contained herein.

More information about the availability of aerial photography in Wisconsin can be found in the Wisconsin Catalog of Aerial Photography produced by the Wisconsin State Cartographer's office.

Methods to Access Historic Aerial Imagery