Endsleigh specialise in Home Contents Insurance for people in the UK

University/library folks – Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Tips & Tools


Apparently, because I’m on a University campus I have free access to this online tool while others do not. That seems unfair and somewhat silly, but my guess is that most public libraries would have access to this site as well. Or, you might be able to find other online resources – ones that are accessible to all! If you do, let me know and I’ll post them here.


Gary, over at This Old Crack House, set me off on a very productive Google search that I thought I’d share with all of you.

He suggested looking up the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, available online and at various libraries. A quick search turned up great results online – no trip to the library necessary. (Though our library is beautiful, and I never mind visiting.)

Below is a link to an online version where I found detailed maps of Canastota dating back to March 1890!

Comments, Thoughts, and Feedback

jm had this to say on 03.14.05:

How cool! One quick question…how did you access the online maps? When I go to the site, it asks for a login and password. The FAQ explains that access is limited to subscribing institutions…

mindy had this to say on 03.14.05:

Hmm – it doesn’t prompt me for a login at all. I wonder if maybe I have special access privelages because I am on a University campus? I’ll try it from home tonight and check on this. If so, get to a University computer lab, cause it is sooooo very worth it. The maps are fascinating.


mindy had this to say on 03.14.05:
jenne had this to say on 03.14.05:

I’m on a college campus and it won’t work for me
I’ll have to look around and see if there’s a way around it! :)

Nathan had this to say on 03.14.05:

Sanborn is th4e critical basic tool for architects and developers in site planning. You’re using what the pros use!
God, those things rock, but I no longer have access. Most major metro libraries have paper versions, but that’s a bit of a pain.
What’s a Typekey ID and how do I get one?

Gary had this to say on 03.14.05:

Glad I could be of help! Now for the $64,000 question. Did you find YOUR house? If so, what did you learn about it?

mindy had this to say on 03.14.05:


I *might* have found our house – there is one listed on our street that has a bay window drawn onto it, which we have. So this might be it! I’m not sure though, have to look at the maps a little closer. BTW, I tried to comment on your site but it wasn’t working. Great resource though, thanks so much for bringing it to our attention!

Nathan – You can get a typekey ID here:

Once you have a key, and I approve you, your comments will be automatically posted. Right now, I have to approve each one by hand to keep spam out of the blog.

Geri had this to say on 03.14.05:

I was not able to access the maps, either. There was a message when I tried the link provided above, that said “your library subscribes to the above states.” My screen said that nothing could be found. So it could be that SU subscribes since they have a school of architecture. Dang!

Geri had this to say on 03.15.05:

I wrote to the Sanborn maps tech support folks and this is what I got back:

Dear Geri,

Thank you for contacting technical support.

Depending on how your organization has their system setup to access Sanborn Maps, you may or may not be asked for a login. You may want to check with your organization for remote access instructions as many sites have specific ways of accessing this remotely.

Also, could you please tell us the name of the organization you are accessing through, so we can properly log this issue?


Scott Kuntz
Technical Support.

So, it seems that since I’m not coming in from any organization, I might not be able to access these at all unless I go as you suggested, to an institution like SU that subscribes to the service.

Alex had this to say on 03.15.05:

Ok, so I totally hacked Sanborn Maps! Check this out. I saw that you needed a username and password, so I started to look around online. I found a website where someone posted their username and password, (hint: username is bitterroot). Then I logged in. To my surprise I got right in, but the person who’s account it was only had access to Montana and I live in Virginia. Since I am a total web geek programmer, I noticed that the javascript in the page that fired to get the city list fired when the dropdown changed. Well, this dropdown only had one option, but if there was a way to add an option to it, say “va”, then it would probably bring up the cities in VA that is has. So I wrote a little power toy for IE (a power toy is a way to run your own javascript on a page that you do not control. It can interact with the page that you are on as if you directly control it. You can use for many things, good and evil, some examples are at, and I have seen it used to change things like hidden form variables such as shipping cost or shopping cart totals, pinkie to side of mouth). Anyhow, I wrote the little thing, ran it, it added VA to the list, and then bamo, I got to see all of the fire maps of my house, july 1885, my house is not there, August 1891, my house is there and has already had its first addition built. I know it was there and people moved in by Jan 1887, so it was built soemtime between July 1885 and the end of 1886, no exact date yet. Research continues. Sorry for my long boring totally geeked out post, but I was just happy that I was able to access the site ;-) My library has all of the info, it was just nice to be able to download PDF files of the same stuff.

mindy had this to say on 03.16.05:

WOW – Alex, you are a total geek. In a good way of course! That’s an impressive workaround you developed. I went to a college full of programmers and it turned me into a computer geek too – so I always enjoy a good hack!

We love to hear from you, dear readers.

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