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October 23, 2014

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Google Maps glitch renames Henderson

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Google’s mapping feature shows a “Rochester” where Henderson should be. A spokeswoman says Google is working to correct the error.

Google map of 'Rochester'

Welcome to fabulous Rochester, Nev. No, not the ghost town outside of Reno. And no, we didn’t mean Rochester, N.Y.

This Rochester is in Clark County, just south of Interstate 215 and adjacent to Green Valley Parkway. At least, that’s what Google Maps says. Others might call it Henderson.

“That should say Henderson, I would think,” said Ross Wekesser, a mapping technician for the Henderson public works department, as he squinted at his computer screen, glaring at Google Maps and its 3-D cousin, Google Earth, both of which showed him a phantom city invading his own.

“I have no idea how it got there or why it’s there, and I know of nothing that it could be,” Wekesser said. But he also suggested we call the county, which keeps the master maps for the valley. Maybe someone there could think of a rational explanation.

“There are no new townships. Maybe it’s a mistake. Maybe it’s a joke,” said Sharon Rice, a senior mapping analyst.

“Maybe it belongs in a different Clark County.”

Clark County, Nev.’s maps are all based on recorded legal documents, Rice said. And there is no Rochester here.

“They didn’t get that from us,” Rice said.

Then she paused. Is this really a story? Rice asked.

Well, maybe not a long one, we said, but sure. A lot of people use Google Maps to get directions.

“Oh, I just go ahead and get lost,” Rice said. “I find more interesting things that way.”

Yes, well. We called Google anyway, which has also been in the news lately for creating the phantom town of Argleton about an hour west of Manchester, England.

Spokeswoman Elaine Filadelfo said that, yes, Rochester appears to be another mistake and Google is working to fix it. She couldn’t say where the mistake had come from, as Google builds its maps using a variety of data from public sources such as the Census Bureau and the National Forest Service as well as some data licensed from private suppliers.

Sometimes private map makers put in fake streets or other nonexistent features to trip up anyone who steals their maps.

Could it have been something like that?

It’s doubtful, Filadelfo said.

“I think usually that would be a little more subtle than creating a whole new town inside of Las Vegas.”

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