The Wonderful World of Maps
Maps are one of the most important tools we use to research and date buildings. The variety of information conveyed on maps is quite impressive, and can include building footprints and materials, transit lines, dates of construction, and ownership information. More and more maps and views are available online. If you know of a St. Louis map that isn’t listed here, let us know.
If you’re researching a building in the City of St. Louis, you’ll want to look at the original plat of the subdivision where your house is located. This is found in City Hall at the Recorder of Deeds office, Room 128. Look for a bound book of computer printouts listing plats by city block. Most blocks will have at least one reference to the original plat of any subdivisions there. You’ll know these because they contain a reference to a plat book – PB, with a number following for the book and a page number. The City has digitized all of the fragile original plats, so ask for assistance to find your plat book on the computer. You can get a large-format printout map for $8.A wide assortment of auction maps, streetcar and road maps, and fire insurance maps are available at the Missouri Historical Society’s reading room on Skinker. These are still indexed in a special section of the card catalog, filed by year.
Sanborn Maps are a valuable resource for the researcher. These fire insurance maps plot building footprints and color-code them to show the type of construction. The University of Missouri has digitized an early 19th century set of Sanborns for St. Louis in full color and put them online. If you are a member of the St. Louis County Public Library, that system’s online services include black and white versions of above maps and another run from the mid-20th century. The Missouri Historical Society is also a good source for Sanborns.
Other visual resources available online include the very detailed Compton & Dry view of St. Louis in 1875. This and other views can be found at the Library of Congress’ online Panoramic Map Collection.
Pitzman’s Atlas of 1868 and many other wonderful visual resources are located on the History’s Time Portal to Old St. Louis web site here.