St. Louis Fire Insurance Maps Digital Collection


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St. Louis Fire Insurance Maps Digital Collection

  1. 1. Brief Overview The 19th-century St. Louis fire insurance maps are an important source of historical information to study the growth and development of post-Civil War St. Louis. By 1870, a tide of immigrants had swollen the St. Louis population to over 310,000 and the city had grown from an important frontier commercial center to the 4th largest city in the nation.
  2. 2. Brief Overview Originally created for the fire insurance industry, these maps provide the most complete visual record of the evolving built environment in St. Louis, covering commercial, industrial, and residential neighborhoods. Urban planners, architects, urban archeologists, and historians as well as to those engaged in family, neighborhood, and house history regularly consult fire insurance maps.
  3. 3. Collections Washington University Libraries and the Missouri Historical Society hold approximately 2,500 fire insurance maps produced in St. Louis between 1870 and 1898 that are not part of any existing digital collection. As the Sanborn Company did not publish St. Louis maps until 1903, there are no 19th century St. Louis Sanborn maps.
  4. 4. Collections • Alphonso Whipple prevented the entry of Sanborn into the St. Louis market until 1903 • Whipple retired and sold his firm to the Sanborn Company. • Whipple produced first volume of fire insurance maps in 1870, followed by the Special Risk Series (1872-1878), which focused on high value industrial properties. • T. A. Aubin, who had worked for Whipple, issued his only set of maps in 1874. • Whipple produced increasingly larger multi-volumes sets of maps for St. Louis in 1876, 1889-92, and 1895-1898. • The maps employ color and symbol codes for details such as building materials, building use, number of stories, and availability of water. After 1875, maps were updated by pasting change slips over the land parcels that were altered.
  5. 5. Reasons to Digitize • Access – a resource with limited access will receive limited use. Visual finding aid. • Impact – Resource is in demand, who knows in what ways it might be used? • Experimentation – GIS component allows maps to be incorporated with other datasets. Web 2.0? • Preservation – the originals are already brittle, by decreasing physical use it will prolong their life.
  6. 6. Transforming through Technology
  7. 7. Transforming through Technology
  8. 8. Transforming through Technology
  9. 9. Transforming through Technology Geo-registered Images: Visual Finding Aid:
  10. 10. Possible Outcomes • Increased scholarship in historic St. Louis • Increased access to maps • Future collaboration and establishing relationships • More grants: success breeds success • Merging of information: combining datasets • Increased productivity: since this was a “first” in a lot of ways, we will be able to do things better and faster
  11. 11. Questions?