Map Library

  • Sanborn Map of LA Plaza

    Geography Map Library

  • Panorama of Sanborn Research Room
  • Image of San Francisco topo map
  • Map of Mexico
  • Street Map of Pacoima
  • Title Insurance Map
  • World Wonders 1939 Map

Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlas Collection

Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlases are detailed historical maps that helped assess fire insurance rates of individual structures in urban and commercial areas of North America. Produced by the Sanborn Map Company from the 1860s to the 1970s, these extremely detailed atlases (usually around 1 inch = 50 ft. or 100 ft.) showed individual building "footprints," construction details, city street widths, and urban infrastructure details like locations of nearby water pipes, fire hydrants, and fire alarm systems.

The CSUN Geography Map Library has one of the largest collections of Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlases in the country, including more than 4,100 individual atlases covering over 1,631 cities and towns in North America. The collection emphasizes the western United States, including significant holdings of Sanborns for Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Phoenix, Denver, Boise, Salt Lake City, Texas, and Oklahoma, among many others. The Map Library also has Sanborns from locations in the Mid-West, the South, and the East Coast, including Ohio, Illinois, Maine, Nebraska, and Virginia, among others. Select holdings from some border regions in Canada and Mexico are also represented. See the index below for a full list of holdings.

These maps represent the most detailed published information of historic urban land use in North America. They are compiled at the scale of 50, 100 or 200 feet to one inch, and presented on uniform sheets 24" x 26" or approximately 12" x 14" after 1951. Their chief advantages accrue from their extreme detail of building sites and construction information concerning the use of individual buildings, and the availability of comparable coverage at intervals spanning more than half a century in many instances.

While containing great detail of a city's built environment, Sanborn maps often provided limited information related to the non-built environment: viz, fire insurance underwriters often had no interest in providing land-use information for open space or urban parks--spaces which did not require fire insurance--so these types of urban space were often ignored by Sanborn atlases. In addition, activities which pose no special fire risk are frequently left unmentioned, so that a building may be used in both a commercial and an industrial capacity but be designated for only one or the other; residential subdivisions are rarely mapped because of their homogeneity, with the result that major portions of most urban areas have no coverage.

These maps are considered archival materials and access to the collection is by appointment only.


SANBORN FIRE INSURANCE ATLAS COLLECTION INDEX

United States:

Other North America Sanborns: