Maps

Fire insurance plans

Fire insurance plans provide detailed information about buildings and neighbourhoods. They can be used to determine when a building was built or demolished, details of building materials, position of building on lot, lot and address numbers, and lot sizes and shapes.

The fire insurance plans are useful in determining previous street names and numbers, so we recommend you start your research by looking at them.

The Archives has fire insurance plans for a variety of years. The earliest is the Boulton Atlas of 1858. Most of the plans cover various years from 1880 to 1924, although there are a few covering mostly industrial and commercial areas of the former city up to the 1940s. There is a multi-volume set covering from 1954 to 1973.

The Archives has these fire insurance plans available to view online:

1880
1884
1890
1894
1899
1903
1913
1924

 

The Archives also has other years available on microfilm in the Research Hall:

1858
1910
1914-16
1931-52
1952-73

Not all areas of the city are covered for all years; particularly, the earlier plans cover mostly what is now the downtown central city, while the later ones branch out into suburban areas.

Other online collections:

Using Fire Insurance Plans

Reference copies of fire insurance plans exist in 3 forms: online, in hard copy (both black and white, and colour), and on microfilm (black and white).

Goad's Atlas of the City of Toronto and Suburbs, 1910 revised to 1912, Vol. 1 plate 35

Goad's Atlas of the City of Toronto and Suburbs,
1910 revised to 1912,
Vol. 1 plate 35
City of Toronto Archives

The above extract of a fire insurance plan shows what were at the time new suburbs in the former East York. The buildings in pink are brick, and the ones in yellow are wooden.

 

Computer

You can view colour versions of some of the plans online and on the computers in the Research Hall (See above).

Hard Copy

The 1858 Boulton Atlas (Atlas 109) is in a large green folder in the Research Hall.

The 1884 and 1890 plans have been republished in facsimile in a book available form the Archives library, titled, The Mapping of Victorian Toronto: The 1884 & 1890 Atlases of Toronto in Comparative Rendition, by Charles Edwin Goad (Sutton West, Ont.: Paget, 1984).

Microfilm

All fire insurance plans are available on black and white microfilm in the Microfilm Room in the Research Hall. Microfilm rolls can contain more than one year or volume of fire insurance plans.

Goad's Atlas of the City of Toronto and Suburbs, 1909 revised to 1916

Goad's Atlas of the City of Toronto and Suburbs,
1909 revised to 1916,
Vol. 1 plate 2
City of Toronto Archives

About Fire Insurance Plans

Fire insurance plans were originally compiled by mapmakers and leased to insurance companies, who used the information about building sizes and construction materials to determine the fire risk and therefore the cost of insurance premiums.

The Archives has several sets of fire insurance plans. The earliest set was drawn by W.S. and H.C. Boulton in 1858. Toronto resident Charles E. Goad and his company created the plans from 1880 to 1916. Wilson & Bunnell retained the Goad's name when they published their 1923-24 atlas.

The Underwriters' Survey Bureau published individual volumes from the 1920s to the 1940s, and a 1952-73 multi-volume set, covering most of Toronto but concentrating on commercial and industrial districts.

The earliest plans cover only the former City of Toronto, while later ones branch out into suburban areas. Not all areas are covered in all years.

Years up to and including 1903 are covered in one volume per year. Starting in 1910, multiple volumes per year are required to cover the growing city. Each volume covers a different area of the city.

Goad's Atlas of the City of Toronto and Suburbs, 1910 revised to 1923, Vol. 1 plate 53

Goad's Atlas of the City of Toronto and Suburbs,
1910 revised to 1923,
Vol. 1 plate 53
City of Toronto Archives

Obtaining copies

Copies of the fire insurance plans are available in various types and sizes. High quality digital reproductions or photocopies can be purchased from the Research Hall. A price list is available.

More information

The information file titled "Fire Insurance Maps," available in the Research Hall, contains an essay about Goad's fire insurance plans and a brief description of the Underwriters' Survey Bureau.

Robert Hayward's Fire Insurance Plans in the National Map Collection, available from the Research Hall library, contains information as well. Reference Desk staff are also available to answer questions.


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