(Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) I am currently taking a class to learn about historic architecture in Worcester, MA. The other night in class we were looking at a variety of atlases and maps, including Sanborn Maps. Sanborn Maps, for those who don't know, are fire insurance maps that give structure details for cities and town throughout the United States. You will find a nice explanation of Sanborn Maps here.
We were looking at a Sanborn Map for Worcester from the early 1970s. I was surprised at the level of detail the map provided. I turned the pages and found the map for the area of town where we lived when I was a kid. I wasn't surprised to find our house or detached garage on the map, but I was surprised to find my play house! There were also a couple of other smaller structures noted on our property as well--a fireplace and a shed. My play house was originally a chicken coop, and it was pretty small. You can see a photo of it in the background here.
I also looked at some of the other houses in the neighborhood, and I noticed the small factory building behind what was once my Aunt Rose's house. The building is still there, and I am sure the current residents of the house and their neighbors have wondered what that building was used for. Aunt Rose and her husband manufactured hand cream. The Sanborn Map had the outline of the structure and hand cream factory written on the map!
If you are looking for information about an old home or ancestral property or just want to know what the heck that old building in the back yard was used for take a look at a Sanborn Map! You might be surprised at what you find!
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