The “Virtual Watervliet”, showcasing America’s first shaker settlement

Google Earth is an amazing tool for viewing the present, but it can also be a great tool for visualizing the past. We’ve seen many examples of that over the years, and the latest comes from the Virtual Grounds Interactive, as part of a project for the Shaker Heritage Society in Albany, New York.
Their ‘Virtual Watervliet project showcases a Google Earth interface with low-polygon 3D models of America’s First Shaker Settlement in four periods of time: 1798-1838-1925-2012. The project focuses on the buildings in the publically accessible portions of the Historic Shaker District known as the Church Family, and it is intended for online and also on-site visitors. It also offers a mobile website, a location based augmented reality channel, and multiple online opportunities to interact and learn from historical images, music, and virtual buildings.


The integration with the Google Earth Plug-in is quite impressive. They have a variety of features built into the interface including a guided tour, various timeline tours and more. Beyond that, they have maps and historical photographs overlaid on top of the digital reconstruction of the Shaker site — be sure to check out ‘Inner Gate’, ‘Looking North’, and ‘Shakers in Cart’, as they’re quite unique!
You can view it all on the Shaker Heritage site.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Virtual Watervliet was just awarded an honorable mention for Outstanding Public History Project by the National Council on Public History. Thanks for highlighting VWV on your blog!

  2. Interesting. GEB featured this piece (link below) on the National Park’s use of Google Earth and SketchUp in detailing the North Family Shaker Village (which happens to be located right next door to this one.) Check it out:
    Blog post:
    Google Earth Tour of Site on Youtube:

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