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Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps: Introduction

Last Updated: Jan 8, 2024 4:36 PM


Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

"The fire insurance map is probably the single most important record of urban growth and development in the United States during the past one hundred years. It contains data used in estimating the potential risk for urban structures and includes such information as their construction material, height, and function as well as the location of lot lines. The Sanborn Map Company has been the dominant American publisher of fire insurance maps and atlases for over seventy years. Founded by D. A. Sanborn in 1867, the firm has issued and periodically updated detailed plans of 12,000 American cities and towns."--Library of Congress, Special Collections.

Go directly to Digital Sanborns for New York.

The Sanborn Map Company is still in business (owned by Environmental Data Resources) with emphasis on GIS products. Fire insurance maps for major cities are still available, as well as, Digital Orthophotographs, Planimetric maps, Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), and other products.

Sanborn fire insurance maps were produced to provide accurate, current and detailed information to the fire insurance industry for risk assessment purposes. Sanborn mapped over 12,000 U.S. towns between 1867-1970. The maps were revised periodically to be accurate and suitable for fire insurance companies.

The maps show an overhead view of each community at a scale of one inch to fifty feet. It is possible to show each building's footprint as well as dimensions, distance from street, and exterior construction material. Originally in color, the digital editions are line drawings only, but provide a great amount of historical data for researchers. Additionally, infrastructure (roads, streets, alleys, fire hydrants, fire alarms, water supply, etc.) is indicated providing more data on a neighborhood.


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Sam Kim
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