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.
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 Insurance Maps User's Guide
- How to read Sanborn Maps
- History of Sanborn Maps
- Sanborn Map Abbreviations
- Sanborn Map Key
- Sanborn-related References and Links
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps in New York State Libraries
- Brooklyn Public Library
- Buffalo History Museum Research Library
- Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, Buffalo
- Cornell University, John M. Olin Library. Sanborn Maps: Guide to Holdings.
- NYS Microfilm Reel Index (Cornell has complete state Microfilm 6671 set)
- Hamilton College Library, Clinton
- New-York Historical Society, New York
- New York Public Library Map Division
- Farmingdale State University, Farmingdale
- See also: Union List of Sanborn maps.
Additional Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Links (Selected List)
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (Library of Congress Geography & Map Division). Major collection with on-site use only (plans are in the works to digitize many of these maps). Also has resources on reading Sanborn maps, history, and other topics. This is a good place to begin.
- Fire Insurance Maps and Atlases (American Geographical Society Library).
- University of California at Berkeley, Sanborn and Other Fire Insurance Maps. Mostly California maps.
- Union LIst of Sanborn and Other Fire Insurance Maps. Lists cities and towns, and which institution holds copies of materials (by date). Covers all 50 states, listing holdings, by state GOOD PLACE TO START. Selected NE region states:
- New York; Pennsylvania; Connecticut; Delaware; Massachusetts; New Jersey; Ohio; Rhode Island; Vermont
- Harvard Map Collection of Fire Insurance Maps. (Sanborn and Nirenstein).
- MIT's Sanborn Map Collection (Massachusetts maps) Also has Boston maps.
- Fire Insurance Maps (University of Illinois, Chicago).
- Florida Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (University of Florida, Map & Imagery Library).
- Checklist of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps in Branner Library (Stanford University).
- Sanborn® Fire Insurance Maps for Georgia Towns and Cities, 1884-1922 (Digital Library of Georgia). Digitized collection of Sanborn maps in the public domain. Maps are from the University of Georgia Sanborn Map Collection (Maps of Georgia). Has links to other states.
- Pennsylvania Sanborn Maps Collection (Penn State Map Library). Covers the state. Print collection almost complete coverage; digital collection is being expanded.
- University of California, Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz County Sanborn maps
- University of Utah Sanborn Maps Collection. Digital collection of Utah cities and towns.
- Sanborn Maps at the University of Virginia Library. Mostly Virginia cities and towns.
- Cyndi's List of Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Collections. Many states and cities are listed here.
- Digitizing Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for a Full Color, Publicly Accessible Collection. Describes a project to digitize maps in the University at Utah (above). Examples show what Sanborns look like in their original color form.