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Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Last Updated: 5-Apr-2013

Image courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection.

 

Sanborn fire insurance maps provide detailed building information of historic value.

Subject Librarians

Julie Sweetkind-Singer
Assistant Director of Geospatial, Cartographic and Scientific Data & Services, Head of the Branner Earth Sciences Library & Map Collections
(650) 725-1102
Earth Sciences Librarian
(650) 724-6242
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Subjects

Sanborn Map Overview

Fire insurance maps are detailed plans (scales usually 1:600 or 1:1,200 – 50 or 100 feet to an inch) showing:

  • Building footprints
  • Building material by color (adobe, brick, frame, metal)
  • Height or number of stories
  • Doors, windows, chimneys, elevators
  • Address and lot lines
  • Use (dwelling, hotel, church, chicken coop, etc.)
  • Street widths, water pipes, hydrants and cisterns
  • Ethnicity of the occupants (occasionally), etc.

While originally produced for insurance purposes, the maps are now useful in disciplines such as history, architectural history, ethnic studies, and urban archaeology.

Sanborn maps held at Branner Library

In Searchworks, enter “insurance fire” as subject terms, and limit to map/globe.  The link here will pull up over 200 records of paper and/or microfilm maps.  Paper maps have the great advantage of being in color, so you can enjoy the full functionality and beauty of the originals.  Some digital maps, in color, are also available via http://www.davidrumsey.com.

Union List of Sanborn & other fire insurance maps

Fire insurance maps have been scanned and available for a number of states.  The list here gives an overview from each state.  The list to the left highlights specific states including California, Hawaii, Nevada, and New York.

California Sanborn Maps

California Sanborn Maps online database

Stanford affiliates can view uncolored Sanborn maps from 1867-1970 via a Proquest database.

San Francisco Genealogy

SF Genealogy has scanned maps of San Francisco from 1899-1900.

David Rumsey Map Collection

David Rumsey has scanned the 1905 Sanborn Insurance Atlas (pre-earthquake).

 

Nevada Sanborn Maps

Sanborn maps of Nevada are available from the University of Nevada, Reno.

New York Sanborn Maps

Insurance maps of New York have been digitized and are searchable through the New York Public Library's catalog.

Hawaii Dakin Maps

Hawaii's fire insurance maps were made by Dakin.  A number of them have been scanned are available here.