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Michigan State University

Detailed Land and Property Information in Michigan: Sanborn Maps

Various resources are available for researching a particular property or building in Michigan.

Sanborn Maps Example

Using the Collection

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.  The Map Library only owns one 3-volume set for Lansing, published in 1953.  We purchased computer access to digital images of the Michigan Sanborn maps, which includes over 300 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 and choose "Michigan" as the state (it will be the only choice)
  2. Pull down the list of 330+ 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.

Other Sanborn Maps

Many people are interested in finding Sanborn and other similar insurance maps in their original colored state, and finding maps of communities in other states.

  • Detroit Public Library has a collection of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps in paper format
  • Some libraries purchased the nationwide collection of online Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.  These will only be available by visiting the library building in person (unless you have authorized online access to these places)

See Also

See also MSU Libraries' links to other Sanborn sites at:



Subject Guide

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