Friday, January 14, 2011

Something bigger than google maps

Much much bigger, in fact. And much more fun, although I must confess I love google maps street view feature.So we enjoyed another Thursday at the library downtown. This time I trekked out with the munchkin and three of his neighborhood buddies and while they enjoyed the afternoon kids program, I ducked into the Florida collections for some quality time with a few maps I'd wanted to check out ever since I heard of them.
The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Then created as a tool used by insurance companies and fire departments to assess the risk of fire for neighborhoods and properties, they are now a great tool in your research of your property's history. You can find out whether your house changed shape (a porch added or enclosed, an addition built, etc.), if it had outdoor buildings at some point (a garage, a shed, a carriage house, etc.) and what the surrounding neighborhood looked like.
Our library has actually digitalized a great deal of the Sanborn maps (check it out here) but unfortunately not enough to show the street with the Ugly Duckling. So off I went to wrestle the maps in person.
And wrestle them, I did. Boy, they look nothing they today's AAA maps! Nothing at all.

(Meet the Sanborn Map Collection - yes, they are that tall)

(Loooove those rumpled looking yellowed pages)

(Yep, that's my hand. You need two of these to carry one of the maps)

The librarians working the special collections upstairs are always incredibly helpful and nice and I feel quite at home up there. So while they put out the call to find the librarian who could answer my question on how these maps are set up, I decided to simply try my luck.
I'm a very visual person and a hands-on approach usually works much better for me than listening to or reading instructions of any sort. 3 misses later, I scored my first map with the right street. Woot! Granted, waiting for the librarian to point me to the right map would have been a little easier on my back and kept me from toting 3 heavy (40-50lbs is my guess) maps back and forth between their shelf and the table that's big enough to hold them.

(Our neighborhood in 2924 - the different colors indicate building material (pink is brick, yellow is wood frame, etc.)

So, there you go. That's how you find out if and how your house changed shape. We were able to go back to 1924 and confirm that the utility room with outside-access only had been a porch in the early years (the drywalled-over window was a dead give-away too, heh) . I was surprised that that was pretty much the only area that was enclosed and added to the structure at some point, even though I still think that the upstairs kitchen/future master bathroom was an open porch. I'm sure future demo will help us solve that riddle.
Way back there was a tiny garage in the Ugly Duckling's backyard but other than that, it has stayed in a rather unaltered state. And if we have any say in it, it'll remain on the map for a number of years to come :o)

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