pastmapper map from 1853

DoubleDutch (as you all know) focuses on enterprise apps. Every week, we have a few local businesses or non-profits that inquire after our products and location-based technology. When we heard about Pastmapper, we were intrigued and it was evident from the very beginning that they are on to something cool.

Pastmapper, launched in December of 2011, is a platform for organizing data and maps to discover the past. They have compiled historical data about San Francisco from 1853 and 1914, and made it interactive in a mobile app. Pastmapper was created by Brad Thompson, who is actively seeking collaborators interested in developing standards for organizing and displaying historical information.

Today, we are happy to announce the release of DoubleDutch’s first probono app, Pastmapper, available now for iPhone and iPad.


Built using the DoubleDutch platform, this mobile app combines social check-in features with geotagged listings for over 2,000 businesses, covering every bar and restaurant in San Francisco from the year 1966 (with more cities and years coming soon).

Use the app to:

  • Look back in time to view nearby locations from the past
  • Post and view photos
  • Update your status by checking-in to historical locations
  • See other user’s updates in the activity feed
  • Customize your profile and interact with other users
  • Learn more about the history of your neighborhood


Interview with founder and creator of Pastmapper, Brad Thompson:

DD: Hi there! Why don’t you introduce yourself to DoubleDutch blog readers.

BT: Hi! I’m Brad Thompson, founder of Pastmapper. I’m fascinated by history and how neighborhoods change over time. Since moving to San Francisco in 2005, I’ve been particularly interested in the past and present versions of San Francisco, a place that has changed dramatically several times since its founding. In December 2011, I launched, a platform for showing historical information using the visual language of online maps, starting with a zoomable online map of 1853 San Francisco. Think of Google Maps, but for a year in the past, complete with roads, business listings, railroads, etc.

DD: What’s Pastmapper all about?

BT: The idea behind Pastmapper is that we’d all be able to understand the past better if we could just interact with it the way we do with the present day. I learn about the present-day world by using the apps on my phone, and by reading comments from friends in my network, blog posts, etc. By taking massive amounts of information from the past and presenting it in a similar way, this new Pastmapper app allows you that same process of discovery, but back in time. It also allows conversations to start, and for people to share memories, ask questions, and learn from other people. It’s a great way to develop a sense of historical citizenship for your neighborhood or city, whether you’re a new arrival or have lived here all your life.

DD: Why a mobile app?

BT: By leveraging the location-based mobile platform DoubleDutch has developed, this app helps uncover the many stories lurking in a city like San Francisco. The past is really like a foreign country — it’s hard to feel a connection to a past version of a city when it was so different. For instance, your local dive bar might have been full of people in suits and cocktail dresses 40 years ago. I think that sort of thing is fascinating. So often, I find myself wishing I could just pull out my phone and find out the history of a place, instead of having to dig through internet archives or old city directories to uncover the story. It made sense to start with restaurants and bars; these are the public places where our social lives take place, and those are the most interesting to me personally. So initially, the Pastmapper app contains listings for every bar and restaurant in San Francisco from the year 1966. That’s over 2000 entries, and is growing every week as more years are added. The app was made possible by DoubleDutch’s pro-bono program for local non-profits.

DD: Why did you ask DoubleDutch specifically to help in this project?

BT: The app is a way to uncover content based on location and context, and publish content (by checking-in and posting updates around these places). So, it acts as both a learning tool and a social game. The DoubleDutch framework (although developed for enterprises) has a lot of cool features built-in that are perfect for playing with historical data. This app will allow people to explore neighborhoods of the past in the same way they do with the present using apps like Foursquare or Path.

DD: What do you like most about the app?

BT: When I discover an interesting historical fact, I like to share it. You can do that directly from the app, by linking your Twitter or Facebook account. So now when I discover for instance that my favorite tapas place used to be the Circus Tent Snack Bar, I can share it immediately. It’s a fun way to get my friends involved in the conversation.

DD: Last question… how can people find the app?

BT: Head to the iTunes store and download it for free on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.

Around the office, we’ve been addicted to the app — what was here, at 2601 Mission Street, before DoubleDutch was? Download the app and check it out. Seriously cool stuff.

Click this link from your iPhone or iPad for easy download: