Produced by the Sanborn Map Company from the late 1860s to mid 1970s, Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlases are highly detailed historical maps that allowed insurance companies to assess fire risk for individual structures in urban and commercial areas throughout North America. Today they represent a unique and priceless tool for researchers focused on historical geography, architecture, environmental history, the growth of cities and the social composition of urban areas.
The maps display not only highly accurate building footprints but also various other construction specifics, including building materials, the location of windows, doors and firewalls, roof composition, and number of floors. Additionally, they also depict a host of supplementary urban infrastructure details such as the names and widths of streets and the presence of water mains, fire hydrants and alarm systems. Combined, Sanborn Maps undoubtedly represent one of the most detailed sources of historic land use and built environment reference for urban areas in North America.
The Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at California State University, Northridge is proud to host one of the largest physical collections of Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlases found anywhere, including more than 4,100 individual atlases in a variety of formats covering over 1,600 cities and towns.