You can now find digitized versions of Sanborn maps online. If you are unfamiliar with Sanborn maps and how they can be used then read this overview. In it you will find out how they have been used in the nineteenth century and how they are still being used two centuries later.
The History of Sanborn Maps
Between 1867 and 1970 the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company produced large scale street plans that showed the outlines of the buildings in the area, the locations of the doors and windows in the buildings, the names of the streets, the width of the streets and sidewalks, the boundaries of the properties, the building’s use (if available), and the block and house numbers.
These maps were originally used in urban areas to evaluate fire insurance liability. They were originally printed on large sheets of paper that showed approximately 4 to 6 city blocks at a scale of 50 feet to 1 inch.
These maps also identify the type of business, such as auto repairs, cotton mills, etcetera, that occupied the particular properties. In addition government structures and places of worship are identified. However, individual home owners aren’t identified. If home ownership is important to you then you should search the Combination Atlases of the counties that you are interested in because they are a terrific source of information about historical property ownership.
The types of materials that were used to build the buildings, fire walls, as well as the number of floors in the each of the buildings are also noted on these maps.
Who Uses These Maps?
Sanborn maps are currently being used for different purposes by a relatively diverse group of researchers. This group includes environmentalists who are have concerns about how new developments could impact the area, urban historians who study the growth of cities and towns, and local historians who are interested in finding and identifying neighborhoods and buildings that have historical significance.
Individuals also use these documents in order to learn about their own old houses and the neighborhoods they live in as well as by people who are interested in the properties their ancestors owned.
How to Use Sanborn Maps
Most urban areas are covered by Sanborn maps. The maps come in volumes and every volume contains a title page which shows the year of publication along with an index of the addresses and the streets that are covered in that particular volume. All you need to do is look up a building name or an address and you will find the sheet number for the map you are looking for.
In addition you can use an index map to help you to find the sheet number for an address that you don’t know.
Now that you have an overview of what Sanborn maps are and how you can use them you will be able to download the ones that you need on the Internet.
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