The CHS library has recently acquired a new, complete set (4 vols, 1922-23) of Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for Hartford with updates through 1960. The Sanborn fire insurance maps were originally compiled to help insurers assess the value of property, identify risk factors, and underwrite losses. The company mapped approximately 12,000 cities and towns, beginning in 1867 and continuing for more than a hundred years. The maps provide a lot of information, including building outline, size and shape; construction materials; height; building use; windows and doors; street and sidewalk widths; house numbers and more. Factories are labeled with the owners’ names, as well as the products manufactured there. In large industrial and commercial buildings even individual rooms and their uses are shown. Also depicted are pipelines, railroads, wells, water mains, dumps, and heavy machinery likely to affect the properties’ vulnerability to earthquakes, fire, and floods.
Because cities were mapped several times, the maps enable researchers to trace the architectural history of individual buildings or entire cities. Social historians use them for analyzing many things, from commuting patterns to the evolution of parks. Environmental historians use them to study the impact on the environment of past uses of buildings.
The library already owned a set of these maps for Hartford with updates through 1932. With the acquisition of the new set with updates through 1960, researchers will be able to compare the Hartford of the early 1930s with the Harford of 1960, a period of time in which the city changed in many significant ways.