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Texas Tip Tuesday: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Posted by on June 7, 2011

This may be old news, but since this blog was just recently born, it needs to be mentioned again.  This year, the University of Texas has completed a three and a half year project imaging Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Texas and Mexico for the years 1877-1922 and…drum roll…making them available online.

Sanborn maps were created to help estimate fire insurance liabilities in large urban areas.  Due to the level of detail needed for that purpose, these maps are often extremely useful to genealogists.  The Sanborn Company, founded by Daniel Alfred Sanborn, started creating these maps in 1867.  According to Wikipedia:

“The maps include outlines of each building and outbuilding, the location of windows and doors, street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, fire walls, natural features (rivers, canals, etc), railroad corridors, building use (sometimes even particular room uses), house and block number, as well as the composition of building materials including the framing, flooring, and roofing materials, the strength of the local fire department, indications of sprinkler systems, locations of fire hydrants, location of water and gas mains and even the names of most public buildings, churches and companies.”

For more history on Sanborn maps, see Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps: A Brief History by Chris Nehls, Geostat Center and Department of History, University of Virginia or Information about Digital Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps by Tom Gates, Associate Professor, Kent State University.

That’s all I have to say because you must see the detail to believe it.

Just for grins, in the Texas maps, check out the Austin 1889, sheet 1 map for the location of the State Capitol.

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