Monday, March 19, 2012

Historic Map Resources

In my first post, I discussed the great resource of Sanborn Maps. However, there are several other great historic map resources available to those looking to research a property or structure. We’ll touch on a few today and places to access these resources in Indiana.

Historic Topographic Maps

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Topographic Maps cover every inch of land in the United States. The USGS took responsibility for surveying and creating maps of the United States beginning in 1879 and has continued as the largest, civilian mapping agency of the United States. The 1:24,000 scale (also known as the 7.5’ minute series) topographic maps are the most commonly known and used map created by the USGS. The topographic map can provide information about your property that might not be found in other sources. Before you can find the appropriate topographic map, you need to know which quadrangle your property is located within. You can find your specific quadrangle by searching this index to quads in Indiana; many quads are named after major cities or towns within the area, although there are exceptions to that rule. The quads in Decatur County include: Adams, Waldron, Hartsville, Forest Hill, Grammer, Westport, Millhousen, Greensburg, Osgood, New Point, Milroy, and Clarksburg. Indiana University has digitized a variety of historic topographic maps dating from the 1940s to the present. Topographic maps can tell you major land development, it might show whether or not a building was on the site, changes in railroad lines or road developments (such as highways), and the city limits. Historic topographic maps are a great resource to understand the overall area development.

1958 Historic Topographic Map of Greensburg Quadrangle, Image available at Indiana University Libraries

Historic Aerial Maps

When trying to get a bit more detailed, historic aerial maps should be your go-to resource. Historic Aerial Maps started in Indiana during the 1930s and many areas were photographed approximately every 10 years. The Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index, or as it’s known, IHAPI, is a great resource to get your aerial photo research started. IHAPI provides the Decatur County aerial maps for the years 1940, 1950, 1955, 1960, and 1968. The IHAPI is designed as an index, which means it provides a starting point to determine the years and which aerial photos are available for your property. In the right hand corner of each mosaic image, the aerial photo number is featured – the vital information you need to find and access the physical aerial maps. The IHAPI might give you some semblance of what was going on the land at that time, but physically viewing the aerial map will provide a much greater level of detail. The Indiana State Archives hosts the physical aerial map collection. Because of the frequency of aerial maps, they provide a great resource in dating changes to a structure or land.

Other Maps

The IUPUI University Library features a great online resource of digitized maps from across Indiana. The Historic Indiana Maps collection includes maps ranging from plat maps, soil and natural resources maps, geological maps, and transportation maps. This collection features both state wide, county wide, and local map data. Also related, the IUPUI University Library digital collection includes the Historic Indiana Plat Maps. This resource may require a little digging, but is a great historic resource. Plat maps will feature land ownership boundaries which may indicate the use of the land at the time of publication (farming versus residential). Libraries often feature bound book copies of plat maps, atlases, and other historic county maps ranging from the earliest settlement of the county to the present.

Post written by Raina Regan
Raina is an architectural historian employed by the Indiana National Guard. Her work encompasses statewide cultural resources projects with National Register eligible or listed structures. Raina has a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Visual Culture from Michigan State University and a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Ball State University.

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