Have you wondered what your town or neighborhood looked like 100 years ago? Want to know what that large building at the end of your block was originally used for? If you answered yes, you will want to check out the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. In 1867, the Sanborn Map Company, which is still in business today, began making detailed fire insurance maps to help “insurance agents determine the degree of hazard associated with a particular property.”[i] The Sanborn Company estimates they created maps for 12,000 cities and towns in the United States[ii]. The maps are very intricate and detail the size, shape, placement and number of windows and doors, property boundaries, and type of business or industry located within a structure. They are also coded to reflect the various types of building material used and to distinguish residential from commercial property.
While the maps are no longer used for insurance purposes, they are now a wonderful way to supplement your historical and genealogical research. They are also essential tools for anyone interested in the history of their home or a particular structure. The maps can be used in conjunction with city directories and newspapers to locate the homes of individuals or businesses in a town and even on a specific street. Because the maps were constantly updated, researchers can track changes that took place in towns, business districts, and neighborhoods. Street addresses and street names have also changed over time, and sometimes more than once, so the maps are an excellent way to find the original address for a specific home or business.
The Local History and Genealogy Department, located on the 2nd floor of the Covington Branch, has Sanborn Maps in original map format, […]