Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Historic Sanborn Map Building In The Village of Pelham

Nestled in the northern reaches of the Town of Pelham adjacent to the beautiful residential neighborhood known as Chester Park with its lovely central green is a building known as the Sanborn Map Building. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting will provide a little of the history of that lovely building and photographs of the building including a few of the relief sculptures that adorn its façade.

The photograph above, taken two years ago, shows the east façade of the Sanborn Map Building located at 629 Fifth Avenue in Pelham, NY.

The Sanborn Map Building was built in 1906. In it the Sanborn Map Company produced maps for insurance company customers. The company's predecessor, founded by D. A. Sanborn in 1866, gained national recognition in the 19th century for its incredibly detailed fire insurance maps. The "Sanborn Map and Publishing Company, Limited" was established at the office of the Continental Insurance Company in New York in 1876.

The company changed its name to Sanborn Perris Map Company Limited in 1899 after it acquired the mapping firm of Perris and Brown of New York. In 1902 the company changed its name again, this time to The Sanborn Map Company. At about this time it began planning its new headquarters in Pelham. Architectural renderings were executed as early as 1904. The building was constructed in 1906 and the company relocated to its new facility in 1907.

The new publishing plant was located on five acres of land and is considered an early example of a "campus-like" setting for such a corporate headquarters. The main building, built of brick, is 75,000 square feet and is decorated with dozens of relief sculptures of ancient mapmakers that surround the facility at its roofline. The photograph below, taken two weeks ago, shows the south façade of the building. Note the sculptural reliefs that appear every few feet along the roofline of the building along the entire façade.

By the 1920s, The Sanborn Map Company was a major success. The company expanded its production facilities to include locations in Chicago and San Francisco. It had more than 1,000 employees preparing bound volumes of printed insurance maps (later loose-leaf collections of maps).

An Example of One of the Sculptural Reliefs.
(See Additional Examples Below).

During World War II, the company was designated a strategic war production plant with substantial security. During the War the company operated 24 hours a day to produce maps of locations around the world using aerial photgraphs.

After the War, The Sanborn Map Company began to downsize and, in 1950, closed all its offices except for the Pelham headquarters. According to a history prepared by the company, "[a]fter 1950, Sanborn reduce[d] the size of their maps and for many clients, [began producing] maps in black and white."

During the 1960s, Sanborn began to diversify its map offerings. It began preparing and offering maps reflecting issues such as market radius and land use according to a brief history prepared by the company. According to that same history, between 1970 and 1983:

"Sanborn enter[ed] photogrammetric mapping and geographic information systems industry. Sanborn acquire[d] aircraft and [began] aerial photography and photogrammetric mapping. Sanborn use[d] computers for tax parcel mapping and land/building usage databases. Sanborn enter[ed] the digital mapping age."

During the 1990s and in the last five years, the company has been on an acquisition binge, acquiring such businesses as Lockwood Mapping Company of Rochester; Walker Associates; Dynamics Corporation of Charlotte, NC; Barton Aerial Technologies, Inc. of Columbus, OH; and Williams Stackhouse of San Antonio, Texas.

In 2001, Sanborn acquired the Colorado Springs office of Analytical Surveys, Inc., doubling its size. Not long thereafter, it moved its corporate headquarters to Colorado Springs where it remains today.

Today the Sanborn Map Building contains a host of small businesses that lease commercial space for offices, dance studios and other purposes.

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Located at
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