LA Times Features Sanborn Maps

LA Times Features Sanborn Maps
Maps are cool. Old ones. New ones. Hard-copy ones. Electronic ones. We all rely on maps every day. To find a business, visit a client, get to a networking event on time or find a place to eat. And then to find our way home again. Environmental professionals rely on them every day, too. To find their way to target properties. To identify uses of adjoining properties. To build a property’s history, and ultimately, to identify potential environmental concerns on or around a target property.

Maps serve many valuable purposes and it’s not surprising that people are passionate about them. Kudos to my colleague Richard White, one of EDR’s internal GIS experts, for coming into my office this morning to tell me excitedly that the LA Times published an article accompanied by a photo of a local librarian poring over a Sanborn map.

It seems the map librarian at the LA Central Library, Glen Creason, is a popular guy. For 32 years, he’s been there answering questions like:

“There was a baseball field somewhere in L.A. in 1888 that only lasted one year. Where was it exactly?”
“How do I find the gravel pit where the Sleepy Lagoon murder took place?”
The library has an impressive 100,000 maps in its collection, including Sanborns, that contain “a trove of information about old L.A.”

Eventually Glen wrote a book on the topic, “Los Angeles in Maps,” which includes Edward O.C. Ord’s 1849 survey, a photographic map of a model of the city as it was in 1881.

“People always say, ‘Why is Los Angeles so spread out?’ and there’s so many reasons for that,” Creason says. “The streetcar lines were basically created by people who were going to make a lot of money selling real estate and that meant connecting everything that they could.

He gets fewer phone calls today thanks to the power of Google, but I’m guessing there are still questions that only old maps can answer.