The sources used for identifying
lost buildings were: VHSP survey, Historic Savannah maps
(1979 & 1968), Sanborn Fire Insurance maps (1955 amended,
1955, 1916, 1898, 1888, 1884) and the Vincent map (1853).
For the Sanborns, printouts were
taken from microfilms and pieced together in a ward format.
Scans were ordered from the Georgia Historical Society of
the 1955 and 1955 amended Sanborns. The scan were digitally
altered and likewise pieced together in the ward format.
The scans were helpful in determining the building material
The maps were treated as a series
of layers. They were laid out in reverse order, going from
Sanborn Maps with Layer Notes
The process started by comparing
present-day maps with the 1979 HS survey maps. Lost buildings
were thus identified. The next step was to compare 1979
HS survey map with the 1973 (1955 amended) Sanborn. In addition
to seeing some 1979 buildings appear on this preceding set
of maps, more new lost buildings were identified. This process
of identifying lost buildings by comparing one set of maps
with the previously available set, continued till the 1853
The sequence of years dealt with
was: 1979- 1973- 1968- 1955- 1916- 1898- 1888- 1853.
Lost buildings were indicated by
highlighting them in two colors, orange and green. Orange
indicated that the building was last seen on that particular
map. Green indicated that the building continues on the
next subsequent (increasing order) set of maps.
Sanborn Maps with Layer Notes - Southeast Corner
Each lost building was given a unique
building identification number. A table was formulated that
documented the building in terms of address, lot information,
building characteristics and building use.
While the lost building list was
being compiled, photocopies of archival photos of downtown
Savannah were being collected. The sources for these photos
were the various collections at the Georgia Historical Society,
the Historic American Building Survey website, Library of
Congress website, Digital Library of Georgia website and
other private collections.
After compiling the lost building
list, an attempt was made at identifying all the buildings
in the archival photographs. A limitation in using maps
was that everything was in a two-dimensional format. Thus
it was difficult to discern whether a building in two different
maps was the same, especially when it had the same footprint
profile and same number of stories. The availability of
the archival photos helped resolve a lot of such problem
This process, although at times frustrating,
was largely successful and also revealed some surprising
facts. Some buildings, previously thought to be lost, were
in fact different versions of an existing building. Conversely
some buildings thought to have existed from an earlier date,
were in fact found to be modern buildings.
The archival photos also helped in
assigning near-to-accurate physical attributes of the building,
especially for making their models. The roof types of the
buildings were almost impossible to know, if it were not
for these photos.
|Sanborn Key (1916)
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City Directory and Address Methodology
After assigning address to the existing
buildings, the next step was to go through the 1955 amended
Sanborn Fire Insurance map and check for any additional
relevant data. Sanborn maps may incorporate side and rear
addresses, as well as address ranges.
After this it was decided to include
the pre-1897 addresses. Prior to 1897 all the buildings
in Savannah had a different address. The addresses on the
east-west streets did not follow the East-West address format.
For these streets the addresses began on East Broad and
increased in number as they went westwards. It was in November
1896, that the East-west system was introduced. The 1888
Sanborn was useful in assigning pre-1897 address to the
When the city directory data was
uploaded, many address were found not to link to any building.
After going through the list, it was found that many of
these buildings had addresses that did not get included
in the existing address range of a particular building.
After going through the Sanborns, as far back as 1898, many
address of buildings were updated.
Another error that was discovered
was that the odd and even address were getting mixed up.
The source of this problem was in the software program that
integrated the database to the models.
After fixing these two problems the
city directory data was reloaded to result in a higher rate
of addresses that linked to the right building.
Still some addresses failed to link
to any buildings. After examining these address closely,
it was found that most of them could be categorized into
two groups. The first group of addresses had examples that
fell in between two existing addresses. The other problem
was that some addresses in the City Directories were designated
as “Vacant.” But it was discovered that “Vacant”
may mean vacant building or even a vacant lot.
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