The Batavia Public Library Foundation is in the midst of a campaign—“Save the Maps: Batavia’s Historic Map Quest”—to preserve a significant chapter in the city’s history.
The Library owns a unique set of two historic, oversized (73 x 111 inches) fire insurance wall maps of Batavia, which were produced by the Sanborn Map Company in early 1907. The maps are unusual because they were printed on paper and then mounted on woven cloth and hung on spring rollers. Back in the day, Sanborn maps usually were issued as loose sheets of paper or sheets bound in books.
The maps depict the commercial, industrial, and residential sections of Batavia in 1907 and were designed to assist fire fighters and fire insurance agents in determining the degree of hazard associated with a particular property. They show the size, shape, and construction of dwellings, commercial buildings, and factories as well as fire walls, locations of windows and doors, sprinkler systems, and types of roofs. The maps also indicate widths and names of streets, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers.
Batavia’s maps, one of the east side of the city, the other of the west side, are the only known set of Sanborn wall maps of the city. They are significant and useful resources for historical and genealogical research, urban planning, community preservation, socialstudies, and research on urban architecture and geography.
The Library acquired the wall maps from Batavia resident Kyle Hohmann, who can trace their provenance back to the Newton Wagon Company of Batavia.
The maps are in need of extensive restoration. The Foundation board of directors decided in 2015 that the maps are an important piece of Batavia’s history and that they could be an important resource for both scholars and students, possibly the centerpiece of an interactive eLearning component at the Library and in the Batavia schools. A digital version of the wall maps ultimately will be made available to the general public via www.BataviaHistory.org.
Restoration will be done by the Graphic Conservation Company of Chicago. Once restored, the maps will be on permanent display in the Library on the north wall of the upper level.