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University at Buffalo Libraries

Map Collection

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.


Available Sanborn Collections

Go directly to Digital Sanborns for New York.

The University at Buffalo Map Collection has the 1991 edition of the city of Buffalo, on microfilm. This collection provides valuable, detailed property data, showing individual lots, buildings, and dimensions. The reels can be viewed in the Capen Multimedia Center. Below are samples of the detail shown by these maps. See a complete NYS reel list.

Digital Sanborn Maps. The UB Libraries has a subscription to the digital edition (available to the UB community), providing electronic access to Sanborn fire insurance maps of cities and towns in New York State (1867-1970). The maps are valuable tools for urban specialists, social historians, architects, geographers, genealogists, local historians, planners, and environmentalists.

The Sanborn Maps Legend shows the various symbols that are on each map. There is also a lower resolution screen version available.

Digital Sanborn Maps: Who can use them? The University Libraries subscribes to the Digital Sanborn Maps for New York state only. All UB students and staff may access these as part of our subscription, as well as those on campus with guest passes, and those with UB Alumni or Friends of the Libraries memberships. Our subscription is expensive and we are required to limit use to this population. We cannot share access to anyone who does not belong to one of the above groups.

Sanborn Maps at the University of Virginia Library. In addition to digital Sanborns for Virginia cities, has history and information on Sanborn Maps, including:



Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps in New York State Libraries


Additional Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Links (Selected List)


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