|Key for interpreting Sanborn fire insurance maps|
I ran across some exciting information from the Library of Congress regarding Sanborn Insurance maps. These are a wonderful resource for model railroaders and indeed any interesting in seeing how their town developed over time. The library is indicating that they will have approximately 500,000 maps online by 2020. More maps will be added each month.
Library of Congress Announcement
They currently have about 12,000 maps online from the original incarnation of this project which stalled over a disagreement with the company that now owns the Sanborn maps over what constituted public domain. Since they will be uploading maps into the 1960s it sounds like some kind of agreement can be reached. Many state and local libraries have copies or even originals of these maps in their map rooms and even available online although availability can be very limited. For instance the University of Colorado has many Colorado maps available online to anyone that can navigate their site (which quite frankly is awful). Whereas the City of Los Angeles Library (not the LA County library) will only let you view them in person without a library card. Online access requires a library card. The University of Berkeley apparently has a complete collection of Sanborn maps for California but it only seems to be available to faculty and students online.
One thing to keep in mind is there is not a map for every town in the US. For instance I couldn't find maps for Ward or Eldora in Boulder County, they were just not worth the effort by Sanborn to map out. But you can find interesting places like Deadwood SD!
Here is a link to the map section of the Library of Congress:
Library of Congress Map Section
Its definitely worth perusing, there is a lot of fascinating sections that can be used by both railroaders and wargamers.
Here is the direct link to the Sanborn collection as it exists today. Hopefully we will see the number of documents start to scroll up
Library of Congress Sanborn Insurance Maps