Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Map Mystery

Leave it to me to find really cool old maps of my neighborhood, and then uncover something that doesn't quite make sense.

Today I was milling about randomly on the internet when I discovered that not only does the University of Missouri have a collection of Sanborn maps, but now they're online.  O, happy day.  Then I looked at those maps and noticed a couple of things were missing.  Like two porches and a bedroom of my house.  Hmm.

(By the way, the Sanborn Map Company began drawing maps in 1867 as a way to assess fire risk for insurance companies.  Their history is almost as fascinating to me as their maps, and you can read all about the Sanborn Map Company here.)

The earliest map of my neighborhood that I found dates from 1900.  Locate the intersection of Amelia and South, then look slightly northeast.  See that group of three houses in yellow in Block 7?  The first one is the Kelly House.  Yellow means that the houses are frame construction; pink means that they're brick.  The "D" on the buildings stands for "Dwelling".  The building at the rear of my property was Mr. Kelly's stable.  Nothing remains of it today.  (There is a small piece of old concrete walkway near my carport which I like to think might've been in front of the stable, but I have no proof of that.)  When I win the lottery, I will build the stable again.  The west end of it was two-story (see the 2 on the map?) while the east end was single-story.  As far as I can tell, most of the houses on this map are still standing.  The one to the southeast of mine with the curved front is either gone or has been horribly remuddled.  The smaller brick house across South Street and east of mine is WTB's house, which he refers to as The Coal Miner's Despair.  I'm sure there's a reason he calls it that, but I don't know it.
Photo from collection of University of Missouri Digital Library

The next map I found is from 1910, and the neighborhood hadn't changed much.  The only differences that I can see are that the alley south of South was extended all the way through to Amelia, and a couple of houses were built facing Franklin Street.  Incidentally, the street names in my neighborhood have been the same since at least 1900, which for some reason appeals to me.  Looking through old local newspapers at the library, I've discovered that my house has had the same address since it was built about 1887 or so.
Photo from collection of University of Missouri Digital Library
The most recent map I found showing my house is from 1918.  Now I know about when the house to the west of mine was built.  Look how close together our houses are!  Sometime after this map was drawn, a porch was added to the east side of that house, so now our houses are even closer together.  I notice that on this map, the front porch of my neighbor's house on the west goes all the way across the front of the house.  It's a smaller Greek Revival porch now.  I always think of her house as being larger than mine because it's two-story, but it's really not.  Taller, but not bigger.
Photo from collection of University of Missouri Digital Library

Now here's the thing I can't quite get my little peabrain around: why is neither the back porch nor the side porch of my house shown on these maps?  I know the back porch was enclosed at some point, but I didn't think it was as early as 1900.  (The reason I know for certain that a back porch existed is because I crawled between the ceiling and the roof of my laundry room to take a look and found clapboards under the icky paneling and the ghost of a roofline on the clapboards.)  I could be wrong about when the porch was enclosed.  (Quick, someone find Charlie and tell him I admitted I was wrong about something!)  Maybe the side porch and the back bedroom were a later addition to the house?  The exterior window trim matches all the other windows, but the interior trim and baseboards of that back bedroom are much plainer than in the rest of the house.  Looking at the "footprint" of the house on these maps, the back bedroom and the stupid hallway-turned-bathroom seem to be missing.  Further investigation to follow.


  1. Things I wish I knew about my original old house:

    1. The living room woodwork was all the same, but the ceiling changed from plaster to drywall just where the front bumps out. And there was a remnant concrete lip from the sidewalk aimed right at the bumpout. Was there a walkway there and a door? Did someone manage to add the bumpout and move the door to the side of the house while matching the woodwork and floor? If not, what the heck was the concrete lip for? Why drywall instead of plaster?

    2. What did the original kitchen look like before it was gutted and horribly remuddled in the estimated 1940s?

    3. What demented person covered the fir floor in the bathroom with linoleum?

  2. Karen Anne, I have a situation like #1 in my house with my bedroom walls. Weird. I'd also like to know what my original kitchen (or at least an early kitchen) in my house looked like, and where it was. Mare thinks it was where my bedroom is now, because there's a stovepipe hole in the wall there. Someone covered a FIR FLOOR with linoleum?!?! Idiots. I despair.

  3. Were we separated at birth?! :-)
    I read your posts sometimes and SWEAR that has to be the case.