Fire Insurance Atlases

The Brooklyn Historical Society possesses a collection of historical atlases of  Brooklyn spanning the years 1846-1932. The atlases included in the collection were generated for various purposes, i.e., for insurance purposes, for use by real estate brokers and/or lawyers, for the mapping of farm lines, or for the use of government officials.  The intended purpose of each atlas reflects which features of the surveyed area are emphasized.

As the atlases advance chronologically,  so too do they advance in technical sophistication.  Depending on the level of detail, atlases can include information such as the material content of every building, house and block numbers, content and condition of pavement, street status and usability, locations of sewers and water mains, locations of subway and rail lines, plate boundaries, section and ward division lines, and original farm lines, among further information.

This collection is an excellent historical resource for researchers looking to map the changes that have occurred to the neighborhoods of Brooklyn over time. Collectively, the atlases present a nearly exhaustive survey of the borough of Brooklyn as it existed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Most atlases are physically represented in the collection, but some are only available on microfiche. The collection is accompanied by a navigational index.  For each atlas, the index lists the atlas number (and location within the collection); microfilm reel; date of publication; author/surveyor; title, including the townships and/or wards surveyed; and neighborhoods included.

Click here to view the atlas index.