Sanborn Maps have been created for around 12,000 cities in the US, Canada and Mexico. They were designed so that insurance companies could gauge their risks, and therefore their liabilities from fire. These maps been published since 1867 and the largest collection is online at the US Library of Congress. A more local assortment from the early 1900’s is also available on the Missouri Digital Heritage site, referenced below.
They’re intriguing to explore as they provide a snapshot of our neighborhood during a particular year. Here are a couple of extracted examples, from the 1903 and 1908 Sanford Maps.
Benton Place was platted out around 1867, and was pretty well developed by 1903. Automobiles were a curiosity, but you’ll see that 9 Benton Place was a dwelling (Indicated by the letter D), of three stories, with a mansard on the front with a two story addition in the rear. Out back there is a two story garage, abbreviated as an Auto House, that has also has a mansard in the front. Truly a measure of the times, like having 220v service in your garage to power up your Tesla today, there is a 50 gallon gasoline tank between house and auto house. Certainly relevant to a fire map in a neighborhood still lit by gas lamps.
If you go to the Lafayette Square Archives at https://www.archives-lafayettesquare.org/archive_files/pdf_files/9_2018_386_d.pdf you can read the strange saga of Christian Zeitinger, whose house at 40 Benton Place was destroyed by fire in 1903. Sure enough, the Sanford Map of that year shows the “Ruins Of Fire” there, in addition to the general outlines of the house. An open dot represents frame construction, and a black dot brick.
Harris Row occupies the east side of 18th Street between Hickory and LaSalle Streets. Built by William Pope around 1874, it is a rare preserved example of detached row houses in the city. They were designated a City Landmark in 1972, which may well have saved them from becoming part of a proposed North-South Distributor Highway. Today, there are 10 in the row, going from 1100 through 1116 18th Street, but in 1903, there were 16 rowhouses, nearly perfect in their uniformity thirty years after construction. The northern 6 were lost, replaced by a corner store, a gas station, then a parking lot.
At Park Avenue and South 18th Street, where the Condominiums across from Square One are today, there stood Keys Farm and Dairy Company. It performed churning, separating, bottling, etc., but the cows came from elsewhere. Or did they? You can note the feed store next door at 1815 Park, and just across 18th was a major livery stable. Someone may have squirreled away a source of supply. The whole row of Park from 18th to Mississippi was commercial (represented by the S designation).
Intentions are more clear at the intersection of Missouri Avenue and LaSalle Street. In 1903, a pair of pork packers occupied the area. Heil Packing Company to the South, and John Niebert Jr. and Brothers Pork House to the North. Both were integrated facilities including pig and hog pens, killing, hanging, rendering, cooling and storing facilities. Both had smoke houses on site and Heil also ran three sausage factory areas. The “F” designations at 1112 and 1110 Missouri represent flats, or single floor apartments in two story buildings.
To save a little eyestrain, i’ve compiled a list of the businesses that could be identified from the 1908 Sanford map of Lafayette Square. It shows businesses representative of the period, from Chinese laundries to bicycle repair shops and moving pictures. Fun stuff and a different type of look back.
1701 Drug Store
1709 Moving Pictures
1801-1813 Keys Farm and Dairy Co (Park at 18th St)
1802 Office with Bowling Alley in rear
1815 Feed Store
1825 China Laundry
1915 Moving Pictures
1933-1935 Drug Store (Park at Mississippi Ave)
1018-1022 John Niebert Jr. & Bro. Pork (with hog pen and slaughterhouse)
1108-1110 Heil Packing Co (with hog pen slaughterhouse, sausage factory)
1304-1306 Fire Engine Company #7, Hook and Ladder Company #14
1418 Bicycle Repair Shop
S 18th St at Carroll St – Peabody Public School with 2 outdoor W.C.s
1511 Wagon Shed
1521 Bottling Works
1519 Excelsior Laundry
Vail at McNulty – American Bed Co. (1800 – 1824 McNulty between Vail and S. 18th St)
1734-1838 Boarding House
1808-1812 Storage Warehouse
1824 Overalls Factory
2000-2030 Chouteau Avenue Crystal Ice and Cold Storage (StL Brewing Assn Property)
2101-2105 Merchants Ice and Coal Co
2109-2119 Champ Spring Co (and Forge)
2120 Chouteau Oriel Glass Co
Chouteau near Armstrong (South Corner) B.Roth Tool (and Forge)
Chouteau at Missouri Ave Bowling Alley
Chouteau at Jefferson Ave (South Corner) Wilson, Reheis and Rolfes Lumber Co
Drug Store at Corner Front
1607-1611 Dyeing and Cleaning
1617-1619 Club Room
1621-1623 Moving Pictures
1627 Bicycle Repair and Dyeing/Cleaning
1637 Paint Shop
1659 Drug Store
Thanks to research sources including
Introduction to the Sanford Map Collection; Library of Congress at https://www.loc.gov/rr/geogmap/sanborn/san4a1.html
Harris Row From the St Louis City website at https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/government/departments/planning/cultural-resources/city-landmarks/Harris-Row.cfm
State of Missouri website Missouri Digital Heritage, at http://cdm16795.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/search/searchterm/saint%20louis!insurance,%20fire%20–%20missouri%20–%20saint%20louis%20–%20maps%20saint%20louis%20(mo.)%20–%20maps/field/all!subjec/mode/all!all/conn/and!and/order/nosort/page/1