We all have something we geek out over, something we could spend hours looking at or studying. Maybe for you it is house colors, baseball statistics, the next way you might design your garden. For me, I regularly have what I call nerd nights where I pick a city and look at the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps. Sanborn maps are probably my favorite historic resource to consult and for this blog post, I am going to share why I get so excited when I find Sanborn maps.
Sanborn maps were created as a risk analysis tool for insurance underwriters. The maps were produced from 1866 through 1970. Population growth, demographic shifts, and urban sprawl all necessitated the need for regularly updated maps. A new map was created approximately every 10 years. The maps were created for towns and cities, but are generally not available for country properties. For the bigger cities, like Columbus or Cleveland, multiple volumes were needed to show the entire city. New York City reportedly has 39 volumes.
What’s so special about these maps? The wealth of detail and information which can be gained about a building for which there are no photographs can often be found in these maps. Each map was created on a piece of paper measuring 21” x 25” and was drawn at a scale of 50 feet to 1 inch. Everything was measured by tapeline, including the buildings, streets, sidewalks, and other utility features like distance to fire hydrants, gas lines, and water lines. The last part was particularly important for the fire insurance aspect of the maps. While the maps were created across the country, all maps are set up the same; all keyed the same, and demonstrate the same level of detail. Each volume was set up in the following order: a decorative title page, index of streets and “specials” which included schools, churches, and bigger businesses, a master key for the map (a map of the entire city color coded and numbered showing which map you would need to look up for your particular address), and some general information on population, geography, geology, economy, etc. In the case where multiple volumes were needed for a city, the master map would also let you know the volume number you needed if the area was adjoining the map you were currently using. Many states, including Ohio, have indexed digitized copies of the maps. If you have a library card, you can access this database (yes, even from your home in your comfy clothes). Here’s the link http://sanborn.ohioweblibrary.org.oh0057.oplin.org/ unfortunately, most of the digitized maps are black and white, but a lot of information can still be gained.
For this example, we will look at Heritage Ohio’s location. If you’ve never been to our office, feel free to do a quick Google maps street view search so you can get a 2014 idea of what the neighborhood looks like today. Our address is 846 East Main Street, Columbus. Click on the sanborn.ohioweblibrary link from above and type in Columbus on the search box. Now we have a list of the maps which have been digitized for the city. Notice that the first two years only have a single volume, then in 1901 there are 3 volumes, 1921 there are 6, and then in 1951 there are 9 volumes.
Go ahead and click on 1887. This will bring up a hyperlink for each map and also lists the “specials” and the streets (including the street numbers represented on that map). We want the street titled, Main, E which includes 846.
One of the first pages (usually page 0a or something similar) will always be the index, which if there were multiple volumes for the map would let us know if we were in the correct volume. In this case, the index is the first link. Clicking on the link, we find that there was a gap in the mapping between 824 and 893 East Main Street. Rather irksome knowing they cut off right where you need the map! So, click the red ‘x’ next to the Date: Feb, 1887 on the left side of the screen and it will bring you back to the list of maps.
Let’s try 1891. The index tells us that we need sheet number 70. On the right side of the screen, you can “jump to” a specific page. Go ahead and type in 70 and check it out. You should be able to zoom in to read the tiny details. If you had a chance to drive by our office or street viewed the neighborhood, you would know there is a square block of nothingness across the street from us. However, now you know what used to be there….an orphan asylum, and a large campus at that! The next map available is from 1901. I’ll save you the time and let you know you that our address is in Volume 3, sheet 320. Compared to the last map, we can see there has been a lot of development on our block. Our building is at the bottom of the sheet, where 844 and 848 are labeled. Yes, the one with the attached bowling alley. Focusing on this parcel of land, this map shows us that the building was 2 stories, with an opening to get between 844 and 848 in the middle, as well as access to the bowling alley. Keep going and find out what else became of the block. What became of the orphan asylum?
The color coded maps, in my opinion, are well worth the trip to the library or historical society. Here are the links for the keys so you can decipher the map. For the black and white maps, like the digitized maps mentioned in this blog, use this key: http://sanborn.umi.com/HelpFiles/bwkey.pdf
Here is a color coded key: http://www.loc.gov/rr/geogmap/sanborn/images/sankey22c.jpg
Here is a link for the many of the abbreviations found on the maps: http://www.newberry.org/sites/default/files/researchguide-attachments/sanbornabbrv.pdf
While in Spokane, Washington at the National Trust for Historic Preservation annual conference, I, along with many other Ohio delegates, attended a session on right-sizing. Presenter Cara Bertram, with Place Economics, conducted a survey of older industrial cities that have experienced significant population change over the last 40 years. Cleveland, Youngstown, Dayton and Cincinnati were 4 of the 20 cities selected for the survey.
We expected answers and concrete models working in other cities that we could bring back to Ohio. Instead, we learned that there currently are no success stories. The issue of vacant properties and low population has only begun to be documented and the idea of rightsizing, or the process of reshaping physical urban fabric to meet the needs of current and anticipated populations, is only a working theory. We discovered that dramatic population loss is being experienced across the nation, not just in older industrial cities, but also in Texas, where army bases have vacated, and also in Niagara Falls, NY where they are about to lose their city status along with a significant reduction in federal funds . While a few facts remain constant, such as decreased population, vacant buildings, and economic decline, the available resources change dramatically from city to city and also state to state. Essentially, Ohio needs to find creative ways to solve rightsizing issues through our own resources and funding sources because a national model is not coming any time soon.
Two Ohio cities, Sandusky and Painesville, have decided to create disincentives by using penalties to nudge people and companies to make decisions that expand the tax base. Both cities have created vacant property registries. The ordinance requires owners of vacant properties to sign a registry. Part of the registry requires that the property owner indicates who the lawful owner of the property is and provide the contact information for that owner, or in the case of out of town owners, to provide the local contact for the person acting as the owner’s agent. The property owner is then required to submit a plan for leasing the property, selling the property or developing the property. The ordinance also requires the property owner to keep the property safe and secure and maintain the property in accordance to local standards. As stated in the purpose of the Painesville ordinance, “(t)he purpose of this ordinance is to establish a program for identifying and registering vacant residential and commercial buildings; to determining the responsibilities of owners of vacant buildings and structures; and to speed the rehabilitation of the vacant buildings. Shifting the cost burden from the general citizenry to the owners of the blighted buildings will be the result of this ordinance.” The key to this statement is “shifting the cost from the general citizenry to the owners of the blighted building.” A dilapidated downtown building affects the whole city.
On a statewide level, the Ohio Development Services Agency has created the Ohio Vacant Facilities Fund to create reuse incentives for vacant buildings while investing in local businesses and creating jobs. An employer will receive $500 in grant funds for every new full-time position created in eligible facilities. The position must last at least one year before funds will be distributed. Funds can be used for acquisition, construction, enlargement, improvement, or equipment of the facility. The fund has been allocated $2 million through August 2015 and will begin accepting pre-certification requests November 26. Over the next two years, the fund has the ability to create up to 4,000 jobs.
The program can be used by all scales of employers to fill both big-boxes and main street storefronts. For example, a bakery opens in a downtown. They create 4 jobs after opening. After 1 year, they are eligible for $2000, which could be used to reinvest in their equipment to meet their growing business needs.
Employers should submit a pre-certification request form, available from the Ohio Development Services Agency’s website http://development.ohio.gov/cs/cs_ovff.htm. The request must be submitted prior to occupying the vacant facility or increasing employment in order to verify eligibility and reserve funds. All for-profit businesses are eligible, while non-profit and governments are not eligible. The building must be 75% or more unoccupied and available for use in trade or business for no less than 12 months. If the building is not occupied or construction is not complete, then construction must be at least 85% or more complete and able to be lawfully occupied with a certificate of occupancy. Also, the employer must increase employment above the Base Employment Threshold.
For more information and pre-certification request applications, please visit the agency’s website: http://development.ohio.gov/cs/cs_ovff.htm, or contact the Office of Redevelopment at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 614-995-2292.
 For more information on rightsizing and a full list of all 20 cities, the report in its entirety can be found on Place Economics’ website at http://www.placeeconomics.com/services/rightsizing.
 This excerpt is from the article “The Price of Vacant Property” written by Jeff Siegler and can be found in the Fall 2012 issue of Revitalize Ohio.
Today, Heritage Ohio co-hosted along with Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area, our 2nd Annual Appalachia Heritage Luncheon at the Statehouse. The purpose of the luncheon was to introduce successful projects to Ohio legislators and to show them how cultural programs are having a positive impact on the Appalachia economy. Thirteen speakers shared success stories ranging from Main Street to historic tax credits to singing the Paw-Paw song. It was inspiring.
The stories of success can be applied anywhere in Ohio. Using the cultural assets in your community will help distinguish your strengths and enhance your identity, making your community more competitive in our ever-changing economy. Those places that choose to be all things to all people become so generic they have lost their soul.
The luncheon was recorded via the Ohio Channel and will be available for viewing at www.ohiochannel.org beginning 9/27/12.
Thanks go to hosts Sen. Tim Schaffer (District 31) and Jason Wilson, Director of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia for their support. Thanks also goes to the wonderful insiders tour provided by Bob Loversidge, architect of the statehouse.
This event has grown in importance – watch for your invitation to a bigger event in Fall of 2013.
To paraphrase eloquent speaker Julie Zickefoose: Appalachia’s wealth is on top of the shale.
The application period for Round 9 of the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program is now open. The application form and self-scoring sheet can be downloaded under ‘General Program Forms’ on the program website: http://development.ohio.gov/Urban/OHPTC/. A total of $30 million in tax credit allocation is currently available for Round 9 applicants.
All applicants are required to schedule pre-application meetings with both the Office of Redevelopment and the Ohio Historic Preservation Office prior to submitting an application. Applicants are encouraged to contact both offices early in the application submission period to schedule the meetings to ensure availability. The Ohio Historic Preservation Office can be contacted by calling 614-298-2000.
Please note that applications must be submitted (not postmarked) to the Office of Redevelopment by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 1, 2012.
Round 9 will be administered on the following schedule:
- Application Submission Deadline: October 1, 2012
- Application Review Period: October 2 – December 17, 2012
- Approved Applications Announced: on or before December 31, 2012
Please contact Nathaniel Kaelin at email@example.com if you have any questions about the application and to schedule a pre-application meeting. Thank you for your interest in the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program.