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Local Research (SF & Oakland)

A guide to researching local history, architecture, and urban spaces.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

San Francisco Public Library provides access to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for California.

Remote access is provided through the Articles and Databases link under eLibrary.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for San Francisco span 1887-1950.

  • Sanborn fire insurance maps are valuable historical tools for: urban specialists, social historians, architects, architectural historians, geographers, genealogists, local historians, planners, and environmentalists.
  • Sanborn maps are resources to learn about the history, growth, and development of American cities, towns, and neighborhoods.
  • These maps originally produced for insurance underwriters contain data that includes information such as individual building footprints, complete with construction details such as building material, number of stories, and building use. 

CCA's Simpson Library has print copies of the San Francisco Sanborn Maps from the 1990's. Ask to view them at the circulation desk.

San Francisco Planning Department

Sanborn Maps

New article on Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps! Tanvi Misra discusses how Sanborn Maps show the evolution of cities in the article The Accidental Revelation of Sanborn Maps. Read the article on the Atlantic's CItyLab blog.

Digital Sanborn Maps Key