Center of Google Earth Mural - Atlas Obscura

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Center of Google Earth Mural

Chanute, Kansas

A Google software engineer's Easter egg led to what may be the world's most unusual saved screenshot. 

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When you’re a kid, sometimes it feels like your home is the center of the universe. Well, in Chanute, Kansas, one Google software engineer named Dan Webb had the wherewithal to actually make that happen, and in turn, the town recognized his achievement through one of America’s oddest murals.

The story actually begins with the work of a different engineer, Brian McClendon, who was a co-founder of the company that eventually became the basis of Google Earth. McClendon was a Jayhawk through and through, and set the default location of Google Earth on PCs to center on his childhood home in Lawrence, Kansas, due to its relative proximity to the geographic center of the continental United States. Not to be outdone, Webb, a fellow Kansan who headed the Mac team, directed Google Earth to center instead on his hometown of Chanute.

Ordinarily that’s where this anecdote would end, as it did in Lawrence, with an article in the paper and a cute Easter egg for aficionados. But Chanute took this claim to fame fiercely to heart, and created what may be the world’s most permanent screenshot. In 2010, the Chanute Area Chamber of Commerce commissioned a mural of the Google Earth display on Mac computers, and installed it in the center of the town’s busiest intersection. The map includes an outline of the United States of America, a giant star with Chanute, Kansas highlighted in the center, and a copyright verifying the screenshot.

Of course, Google Earth has long since stopped defaulting to any single central location, and would not likely choose such an Amero-centric center point even if it did. However, the mural is still on display today, and banners displayed elsewhere in town make clear that Chanute is the center of Google Earth (on Mac computers). You can visit the mural when you’re in town, and if you’re not able to make it? Don’t worry. The mural is still visible on Google Earth.

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September 22, 2023

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