Sanborn Time Series: Examples of Change Over Time
Fire insurance maps are valuable to much historic
research because they often provide evidence of change over time.
Specific changes in an individual site such as when a building
was expanded or torn down, can often be dated within a reasonably
accurate time frame, depending on how many different map editions
for that city are available. Change can also be examined in a larger
geographic entity such as a community or whole town. The growth
of towns is reflected on maps through the addition of new coverage
in successive editions.
Social or economic change is often reflected
in fire insurance maps as well. As a neighborhood aged, for instance,
building styles sometimes changed, as in the example of Santa Fe,
New Mexico, below. A community's economic development can often
be deduced from such information as whether houses were replaced
by businesses, went from being single-family dwellings to apartments,
or whether the type of business activity in a building changed.
Two areas have been selected to illustrate the
way fire insurance maps can be used to study change. The interpretations
presented here are not intended to be authoritative. They are merely
designed to provide insight into how fire insurance maps can be
used for different purposes.
Gary L. Fitzpatrick