Sanborn® Fire Insurance Maps Online

by | 3 Jan 2022

From 1867 to 1977, the Sanborn® Map Company of Pelham, New York, produced large-scale (usually 50 feet to the inch) color maps of over 13,000 towns and cities across the United States in order to assist fire insurance companies in setting rates and terms. The color-coded Sanborn maps depict the location, dimension, height, and use of buildings, as well as the materials employed in their construction, and other relevant features. The Library of Congress website refers to these color-coded maps as “probably the single most important record of urban growth and development in the United States during the past one hundred years.”

1925 Sanborn fire insurance map of Versailles, Darke Co., Ohio
A portion of the town of Versailles, Darke Co., OH, as depicted in a 1925 Sanborn map. Library of Congress.

The following online collections offer free access to digitized copies of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for select states, cities, and towns. Most of these fire insurance maps date from the 1880s through 1925 or 1926, as more recent maps are still protected by copyright. Maps from 1927 through the 1960s are also available for many localities, but due to copyright restrictions, you’ll likely need to visit or contact the Library of Congress or other repositories holding Sanborn Maps for access.

1.  Library of Congress: Sanborn Checklist

This searchable database provides information on the Sanborn fire insurance maps housed in the collections of the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division in Washington, DC, as well as links to online images that have been scanned from the collection. Only a portion of the collection is digitized, but over 6000 sheets are online in the following states: AK, AL, AZ, CA, CT, DC, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NV, OH, PA, TX, VA, VT, WY, as well as Canada, Mexico, Cuba sugar warehouses, and U.S. whiskey warehouses. 

2.  Colorado: The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Collection

Building Colorado Story by Story: The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Collection, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, is a digital collection of Sanborn fire insurance maps of cities across Colorado. The free, online collection contains 346 maps of 79 major cities in 52 counties covering the years 1883–1922. 

3.  Sanborn Company Fire Insurance Maps of Florida

This collection of over 3,000 public domain map sheets was digitized from the printed Sanborn fire insurance maps held in the collections of the Smathers Libraries’ Map & Imagery Library at the University of Florida in Gainsville.

4.  Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Georgia Towns and Cities, 1884-1941

Search or browse this digital collection of 4,445 maps by the Sanborn Map Company depicting the commercial, industrial, and residential areas for 133 Georgia municipalities. This Georgia Towns & Cities Sanborn Maps database is a project of the Digital Library of Georgia. 

5.  Sanborn Maps of Nevada

Explore digitized Sanborn fire insurance maps of twenty-nine early towns of Nevada, some of which no longer exist. Over 500 full-color, digitized maps are available online from the University of Nevada date from 1874 through 1943.

6.  Indiana Sanborn Historic Maps 1883-1966

Digital color versions of over 11,500 Indiana Sanborn fire insurance maps have been made freely available online through the Indiana Spatial Data Portal (ISDP) as a joint project between Indiana University and the Historical Information Gatherers, Inc. All maps between 1883 and 1926 are public domain documents and are freely available. Digital copies of maps created after 1926 have copyright restrictions, but can be requested for academic purposes. This collection represents 305 different Indiana locations.

7.  Pennsylvania Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Penn State’s University Libraries has cataloged and digitized their entire collection of Sanborn maps, representing 585 cities and communities across the Commonwealth. All out-of-copyright maps published through about 1925 are currently available online to the public. As copyright restrictions are lifted for post-1926 maps, those scanned images will also be added to the Library’s Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps website.

8.  South Carolina Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

The South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina holds over 4,600 sheets of Sanborn fire insurance maps, covering 97 South Carolina towns and cities from 1884 to the 1960s. In addition, a now-defunct South Carolina insurance firm donated their unpublished collection of maps documenting 229 small South Carolina towns, some of which no longer exist, between the 1920s and the 1940s. A good portion of both of these collections has been digitized and published in this free online collection.

9.  North Carolina Sanborn Maps

The North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill holds the most comprehensive collection of Sanborn® maps in North Carolina, dating from the 1880s to the 1950s and covering more than 150 cities and towns across the state. This online collection features digitized versions of all of the North Carolina Collection’s Sanborn® maps produced through 1922. A related site, Going to the Show, a project documenting the experience of moviegoing in North Carolina in the early twentieth century, contains images of over 750 Sanborn® map sheets from North Carolina, stitched together and georeferenced.

10.  NYC Fire Insurance, Topographic and Property Maps

This chronological list of map atlases available through the New York Public Library, arranged by borough, serves as a gateway to many of the nearly 9,000 digitized pages from 162 atlases documenting New York City’s changing geography and built environment. The majority of these maps are fire insurance maps depicting building footprints, lot dimensions, and shoreline locations. A few even show property ownership.

©2022 Kimberly Powell. Use of this article elsewhere without permission violates copyright. Short excerpts and links are welcome, with credit and a link back to Learn Genealogy.

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