The Los Angeles Public Library offers online access to Sanborn maps of Los Angeles to anyone with a library card. These detailed maps were prepared for fire insurance companies and show the footprint of buildings, plus information on stairways, elevators, construction materials, types of windows, etc.
Cities are typically divided into several books, with a street index at the front of each book. There’s a learning curve to navigating the maps because the pages are large and many of them were broken into two scans. Be patient and explore them thoroughly.
Fans of old lettering (you know who you are) this is for you!
On July 10, 1901, Lionel Comport was shot in the back as he was turning his milk wagon west from Toberman Street onto 20th Street. Here’s our crime scene as it appeared in the 1894 Sanborn maps. Notice that I had to combine two pages to show the entire intersection. Such are the joys of research.
And here’s how the neighborhood looked in 1906. All those vacant lots have filled. Let’s get a closer look.
And there’s our 1901 crime scene. Wouldn’t it be interesting to compare it to a satellite map?
This is my attempt to combine a Sanborn map with a satellite image from Google Earth. It is more difficult than you might expect.
And finally, this is our 1901 crime scene as seen from Google Earth. Notice the 3-D rendering of some of the buildings. Very cool.
Next: On the frontiers of medicine.