Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Example of Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Salt Lake City, 1911. Image from Marriott Library’s online collection.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

“Originally created solely for insurance assessment purposes, it was said that at one time, insurance companies and their agents, ‘relied upon them with almost blind faith.’  The maps were utilized by insurance companies to determine the liability of a particular building through all the information included on the map; building material, proximity to other buildings and fire departments, the location of gas lines et cetera. The very decision as to how much, if any insurance was to be offered to a customer was often determined solely through the use of a Sanborn map. The maps also allowed insurance companies to visualize their entire coverage areas; when an agent sold a policy he could color in the corresponding building on the map and thus visualize the companies’ coverage of an area.”  (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanborn_Maps, accessed 5/18/2012). 

These brightly colored hand-drawn maps show the architectural footprint and construction materials of buildings in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas.  Researchers can use these maps to document the history of a building, and document the layout and evolution of neighborhoods.  The maps can be useful in locating the exact address of a building, information that the researcher can then use to locate further records.

The University of Utah’s Marriott Library has digitized maps from 1884-1955, and they are also available in person at both the Marriott Library and at the Utah History Research Center.

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