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Lost Building Methodology

  • 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 and cladding.
  • The maps were treated as a series of layers. They were laid out in reverse order, going from present-day backwards.

  • Reynolds Square 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 Vincent map.
  • 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.

  • Reynolds Square 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.
    Sanborn Key (1916)
  • 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 buildings.
  • 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.
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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 existing buildings.
  • 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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