Librarys Geostat Center Presents Historic Maps Of Charlottesville
31, 2000 -- What did the pattern
of Charlottesville's neighborhoods look like in 1920?
Hill had not been razed, the downtown railroad roundabout was still
in existence, and the residential area on Jefferson Park Avenue
was still developing. At the University of Virginia, the amphitheater
was not yet built and dormitories on Dawson's Row were still in
use. A new Web site devoted to the University Library's collection
of Sanborn fire insurance maps can help researchers see these and
other differences in the cityscape.
site, titled "Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps at the University of Virginia,"
is located at: http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/sanborn. Created
by the librarys Geospatial and Statistical Data Center (Geostat
Center), the site includes more than 40 highly detailed, hand-drawn
maps produced by the Sanborn Map Company, formerly of New York.
The maps clearly show land parcels, street and utility networks,
and homes and businesses, and are color-coded and labeled according
to building materials and usage. Viewers can browse the images using
either a clickable map index or an index of 1920 street and building
addition to the maps, the site also includes a key to the symbols
used, a bibliography for further research, an index to similar maps
on microfilm, and a brief historical essay written by Chris Nehls,
a U.Va. history graduate student and staff member at the Geostat
Center. The site was developed with assistance from the staff of
Special Collections and the Early American Fiction Project.
maps were originally produced to assess the risk of fire and cost
of insurance. The Sanborn Map Company produced hundreds of thousands
of such maps of cities and towns throughout the United States from
the 1880s. "Maps were sold primarily to national or regional underwriting
associations.... Sanborn [held] a virtual monopoly by 1920, and
by the late 1930s the company had surveyed 13,000 towns," writes
Nehls. Comparison of succeeding series of maps can aid historians,
urban planners, architectural historians and others in tracing the
development of American towns over the first half of the 20th
the maps depict most of Charlottesville's major business district
and many of its residential areas, they do not show all of Charlottesville
in 1920. Areas that were not heavily developed are not depicted.
Local historians will note that predominantly African American communities
such as Fifeville are not shown on the maps, although that area
of town was well built at the time.
original map books are about 21 x 25 inches in size. The library's
Special Collections Department holds two of the original map books
for Charlottesville: the newly digitized one for 1920, and another
for 1907, which will be photographed and added to the Web site in
the future. Sanborn also produced maps of Charlottesville for 1886,
1902, 1913, and 1937. A complete microfilm collection of all Sanborn
maps for Virginia communities and the District of Columbia is available
in the Government Information Resources department, on the third
floor of Alderman Library. Users of that collection can also consult
the Geostat Centers Sanborn map Web resource for an index
to that microfilm collection, to identify what other maps are available
by town and by date.
more information about the Sanborn fire insurance maps or about
the Geostat Center, visit the centers Web site at http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu
or call (804) 982-2630.
Melissa Norris, (804) 924-4254