Friday, April 6, 2012

Clark, Greenleaf, Ravenswood and Estes- Part 2

Anybody who studies American cities knows the value of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.  These were created by the Sanborn Map Company to help insurance adjusters evaluate risk.  Copies of all maps were deposited with the Library of Congress, and were later microfilmed for distribution to local libraries.  An agreement with ProQuest put scanned versions of the microfilmed maps (660,000 of them) online for subscription access.

The Chicago Public Library makes these maps available, so at least access is broadening.  Many of the denser areas in Rogers Park were included in several editions.  When these are compiled it provide a portrait of development through time.  These maps are crammed with information, and the problem is often choosing which type of information is most useful to highlight. 

In this case the maps are focused on heights, with the light grey, dark grey and black showing 1, 2, and 3 stories respectively. It's also possible to focus on type of construction (frame, masonry veneer, steel reinforced concrete) or type of use.  Cross reference this with extensive title research, census records, and phone directories and you can build up a fairly precise history of a block.  In theory that block would reflect the larger trends of the neighborhood.  But I still have to manage a job, a family and a life, so the next step may just be a somewhat closer look at each of these dates.

Bird's Eye Aerial from Bing. Probably 2008.

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