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Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps-Not Your Typical Road Map

Sanborn Map CompanyIn 1867 Daniel Alfred Sanborn, a surveyor from Massachusetts, began creating a unique type of map of several United States cities. These maps were tools for helping insurance companies assess the potential risks of fire hazards for urban area buildings. This talented entrepreneur’s undertaking would soon become the mapping enterprise known as the Sanborn Map Company.

Today these richly detailed maps are a valuable resource for anyone interested in historical land or property research. They also are beneficial in preservation and restoration efforts. Widely used by architects, urban planners, and land developers, they can be an informative resource for anyone involved in researching individual properties, neighborhoods, or whole towns.

The maps provide an abundance of information such as building outline and size; construction materials used in the framing, flooring, and roof; the placement of windows, doors, and chimneys; street names; and house numbers. Also represented on the maps are details on the roadways such as street and sidewalk widths, boundaries, underground pipelines, wells, water mains, fire hydrants, and railroads. In short, the Sanborn Maps enable researchers to trace the architectural history of an individual building or the development of entire communities.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (1867–1970) for the state of Illinois are available in digital format at the Hayner Genealogy & Local History Library at 401 State Street. Come browse this database collection of historical state maps and see what you can find out about your house or neighborhood. Digital images of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps can be viewed and printed in just a few easy steps.