Some historical maps

[Contributors: Li Xie]

We have only mapped the people whose information we transcribed on modern maps – there are cool ways of fitting historical maps onto modern ones, but we didn’t get quite that far. We did, however, look a little bit at some of the historical maps that the map librarians helped us find.

The most detailed maps for our purposes were the Sanford fire maps, created for insurance purposes. There’s a pretty good collection of Sanford fire maps for Boulder for 1922, and many of them are digitized (you can find them in the CU Digital Library (click on the Select collection pull-down menu and scroll down to “Building Colorado Story by Story: The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Collection” – there are lots of the maps for many Colorado counties.)

Here’s the 1922 Sanborn overview map for Boulder:

Boulder Sanborn Map showing an index and the areas for which more detailed maps exist

The area west of the university is shown in the maps numbered 18 and 19; that’s shown below:

The other area we had mapped stretches roughly from map 5 on in the northwest to map 17 in the southeast.

Sanborn maps show the type of building (residential, business and type of business, etc.) so one can get a sense of the neighborhood by looking at the Sanborn map for it. Was it mostly just residential, or were there lots of restaurants, what kinds of businesses were there, were there churches or synagogues or clubhouses? Were most units apartments or houses? And so on.

As an example, take the block delineated by Pennsylvania and College and 12th and 13th Streets.

Here’s that block in a screen shot from the BatchGeo map we made.

Block from BatchGeo map showing dots representing people

There we find Molly McCormick (from Iowa, of Irish parents); James and Annie Duce (both of English parents), Mathilda McGlothlen (from Sweden), and Anna Warriner (from Pennsylvania, of Welsh parents) and her roomer Barbara Dolak (from Austria).

That block is in the Sanborn map sheet 19, and looked like this:

Sanborn map showing building type

The “D” stands for “Dwelling” (as opposed to S for store or F for flat). Pink is brick, yellow is frame. So Mollie McCormick’s house, for example, was a brick house with some wooden additions and a wooden garage in the back.

This is clearly a residential area – apart from a couple of fraternities, there are no marked buildings and no stores. Anna Warriner and the people who lived with her, on the other hand, seem to have lived in the building that is marked Delta Delta fraternity. This is a bit odd – was the building not yet a fraternity in 1920 but had become one by 1922? Did Anna and her family and lodgers live in the back of the building? We’d have to dig into the data and other sources more to find out.

Or take another example, the block delineated by Pearl and Walnut and 16th and 17th, on which the Zorgdragers (Jesse, a Dutch blacksmith; his Iowa-born wife Laura, of German and Austrian parents, and their Colorado-born son Ollie) lived.

Map showing Pearl St and Zorgdrager residence

Their block is included in sheet 12 of the 1922 Sanborn map for Boulder.

Sanborn map showing the Zorgdragers' block

Unlike the block by the university, this is much more a working district, with an auto radiator repair shop and a Salvation army, among other things. There’s a blacksmith’s shop is in the back of the lot on which he lives, it seems, so probably he is the owner of the business rather than an employee.

Read more about Sanborn maps, and find more maps, in the Library of Congress Sanborn Maps collection.