Nevada in Maps Nevada History in Maps
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Sanborn Maps of Nevada

What Can Be Found on a Sanborn® Map?


This Virginia City cartouche [title block] is more elaborate and detailed than most drawn for Nevada communities with a more detailed description of water and fire fighting facilities and building descriptions. The street diagram indicates sections of the town as depicted on a specific map sheet in the set.

Cartouche - Virginia City
Virginia City, 1890 Sheet 1

More typically, on Nevada maps in this web presentation, the cartouche included the town name, county and state; date of the survey and general information on the town including the population at the time of survey, very briefly stated fire protection provisions [or not] along with water availability, as well as Sanborn® publication information.

Cartouche - Aurora
Cartouche of Aurora, 1890
"Water Facilities: Not Good"

The population cited on maps in successive years can indicate the growth or decline of a town. For example, as you follow each Virginia City cartouche chronologically, left to right along the first row of images below, you will trace the city's waning from 6000 persons in 1890 to a mere 1500 in 1923.

Alternately, you might track the slow growth of Las Vegas up until its population surge resulting from the influence of the construction of Boulder Dam, World War II, and tourism. The cartouche below from the 1923 map shows a modest population of 3500.

Cartouche - Virginia City 1890 Cartouche - Virginia City 1907 Cartouche - Virginia City 1923
Virginia City, 1890, Sheet 1
Population: 6000
Virginia City, 1907, Sheet 1
Population: 3000
Virginia City, 1923, Sheet 1
Population: 1500
Cartouche - Las Vegas 1923
Las Vegas, 1923, Sheet 1
Population: 3500

Legends, Keys & Indexes

The Key on early Sanborn® maps consisted of an unpretentious legend describing buildings by indicating the nature of the construction by color and codes for structural features:

Key from a Sanborn Map
The "red" colored buildings often look
more pink than red.

Legends became more detailed and elaborate on later maps.

Key from a Sanborn Map
Reno, 1918

The prominent Goldfield Hotel shown on a 1909 Sanborn map is colored in red indicating a brick building with the kitchen section in stone:

Goldfield Hotel
Goldfield, 1909, Sheet 6

Note: Both the Sanborn® microfilm and the online subscription collections [not this web presentation] are black and white and, therefore, lack the information indicated by color. Consult "Locating a Nevada Sanborn map®" section.

Reno Index

Later maps of multiple sheets often included index lists of streets, businesses and institutions, indicating sheet number.

Fire Departments, Fire-Fighting Equipment, and Water Facilities

Descriptions of water facilities available for fire protection and of fire departments were a key component of town insurance maps and provide a subtle description of the economic health and sophistication of the town and the geography of the area. Later maps provided more detail than found within the earlier cartouche.

Rhyolite water and fire facilities
Rhyolite, 1909, population 800, Sheet 1
Water Facilities and Fire Department

Water lines and hydrants:

Las Vegas 1923 water lines
Las Vegas, 1923, Sheet 5
6" water line [below ground] and double hydrant indicated at the corner of Fremont &
S. Main Streets
Dayton 1895
Dayton, 1895
Location of hand engine and hose cart as depicted on the map
Reno 1879
Reno, 1879
"Organization & Dicipline rather deficient but on occasions of fire, the Apparatus is allways promptly brought out, and well served."


Community Features

Features of a community described or at least labeled on the maps provide primary information on the society and activities of a place and a time. Nevada town maps clearly reflect the early western culture largely based on mining—but not without cultural aspirations:

Tuscarora 1886
Tuscarora, 1886
Chinese Community
Verdi 1912
Verdi, 1912, Sheet 1
Verdi School, a frame building with a belfry and "stove heat, no lights"
Reno 1899 - female boarding
Reno, 1899, Sheet 5
"Female Boarding"
Eureka 1890 - Opera House
Eureka, 1890, Sheet 3
"Opera House" - a stone building
Austin 1886 - Catholic church
Austin, 1886
Catholic Church
Carson City - U.S. Mint
Carson City, 1885, Sheet 1
The U.S. Mint opened in 1870 to accommodate the ore from The Comstock; built from sandstone quarried just east of Carson City
Las Vegas 1923 - Public Library
Las Vegas, 1923, Sheet 5
Public Library
[sandstone block building]

Every building was not identified; many were small frame structures [yellow colored] of no significance to the surveyor; many others are labeled simply "D" or "dwg" for dwelling, which were likely very modest.


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