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Michigan State University

Using Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Online: Sanborn-Legacy Platform

View very detailed building-level historical maps for Michigan plus 12 U.S. metropolitan areas which can be exported as .jpg images or GeoTIFF.

Sanborn Maps Example

Using the Collection

MSU Libraries has purchased two modules of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps online.  This tab describes the package of scanned Sanborn maps of Michgian that are NOT georeferenced.  

Access Michigan Online Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (on campus access or MSU NetID required)

The Sanborn Maps are a terrific resource for viewing detailed information about city properties.  Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps show all the buildings, their addresses, and in commercial areas, the type of business establishment in each building.  This purchased computer access to digital images of the Michigan Sanborn maps includes about 335 cities and villages from 1870-1960.  One important difference between the computer database and the original books is that the computer database is black-and-white only, while the original maps use color to indicate building materials. 

  1. Enter the site (using the link above) and choose "Michigan" as the state (it will be the only choice).  If you are accessing from off-campus or using a wireless connection, you will be asked to provide your MSU NetID and password.
  2. Pull down the list of cities.  East Lansing appears only as part of the 1913 Lansing volume.
  3. A page of thumbnails will appear. If the place is very small, there may only be a few pages, or even just one page!  Large cities, on the other hand, will consist of several volumes.  Look for the pull-down list to choose other volumes in the set.
  4. The map scale is so large that only a couple city blocks will fit on each page.  All but the very smallest towns will have an index map of the village or city, indicating on which page each neighborhood is mapped.  Most towns also have a street index, which indicates on which page each street is mapped.
  5. Once you find a sheet of interest, you may use the radio buttons at the top of the screen to control whether your mouse clicks further zoom in on the image or recenter the image.  Notice also the opportunity to change the size of your viewing window (see the icon of five blue boxes).

Saving & Printing

Maps may be printed or saved using the two links at the extreme top of the viewing window that say "Download Map" and "Print Current View". 

  • If you choose "Download Map," the browser will launch a new window and display the entire page in PDF format.  You may then either print or save the PDF file. 
  • If you choose "Print Current View," then the browser will launch a new window showing the clipped view in .gif format.  You may then either save or print this image file.

Subject Guide

Kathleen Weessies's picture
Kathleen Weessies
Geosciences Librarian; Social Sciences Coordinator; Head, Map Library
MSU Libraries
366 W. Circle Drive E240
Subjects:Geography, Geology
Michigan State University