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About the Maps

The History Center in Tompkins County is committed to engaging the public with the tools of history for discovery and to deepen connections among the generations. One of our key assets is maps.

Sanborn Maps and HistoryForge

HistoryForge uses maps from the Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlas of Ithaca for 1910. The Sanborn maps were done for every village, town and city in the United States about every seven to eight years from roughly 1880 to 1930. The Library of Congress  has a very complete collection. The collection has been only very partly digitized but the Library’s site features a complete list of all the maps. Read an excellent article titled "Introduction to the Sanborn Map Collection" featured on the Library of Congress webpage.

The Sanborn maps are very large scale maps and show every building in considerable detail.  The maps are color-coded for construction materials and other features are displayed using a set of symbols that remained in use throughout the publication history. Commercial properties are heavily annotated so that the insurance underwriter could estimate risk.

Locally there is a very complete set for the City of Ithaca although this is scattered over four different collections. The Tompkins County Public Library has digitized The History Center’s collection and made them available online. These are being rescanned at a higher resolution and uploaded to the HistoryForge site, where they will be geo-rectified. There is a fairly complete set for Trumansburg at the Ulysses Historical Society. Dryden has a full set of black and white three-quarter-sized reprints. The History Center maintains an online inventory  for Tompkins County.


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