When trying to piece together the physical history of a building there are a number of useful resources that can be used. One of the tools that can be used when looking at buildings from the late 19th century and early 20th century are Sanborne Fire Insurance Maps. These maps can provide details on the construction of the building, building materials and changes over time. I am lucky enough to be able to see the development of my home over a nearly 40 year period from 1892 to 1928.
1892 & 1896
My home first appeared in an 1892 Sanborne map, just on the outskirts of the area covered by that year’s map. Abraham Patrick was, at that time, the owner of the home with his law office located on the 100 block of North Broadway. The street address at the time was 306 West Fair Avenue and the cross street was then called North Sixth Street.
The 1892 Sanborne map of my home indicates that it was a two-story brick home with a wooden frame porch along the North Sixth Street facade. The home also included two frame additions to the southern side of the house. The first was a story-and-a-half frame addition with an opening into the home and the second was a single-story addition. Four years later the house has not changed at all and appears much as it did in 1892.
About this same time a “birds-eye” map of the City of New Philadelphia was created showing, in some detail, the buildings of the city. While we can assume that specific details may be incorrect or left out, the image showing my home looks remarkably like the layout provided by the Sanborne maps of the same period.
The home appeared to have undergone some modest changes by the time the 1901 Sanborne map was produced. Not surprisingly, the brick main part of the house appeared the same with the changes affecting the frame additions to the south of the home. It appeared that there had been the addition of small framed porches to the two frame structures, perhaps indicating that exterior doors existed in those locations. Another, much smaller, frame addition had apparently been added to the southern end. The main house, at this time, still maintained its front porch that extended the length of the front of the house.
1910 – 1914
The only noticeable change in the house between 1901 and 1910 was the addition of a bay window off the northwest corner of the house. The additions appeared to be the same as in 1901 except the map no longer showed any porch-like structures on the east side of the additions. The only other difference was the appearance of an alley-like driveway on the west side of the property line that allowed for access to the back of the lot from West Fair Avenue. Four years later the house appeared essentially the same.
1926 – 1928
The additions off the southern side of the house must have been removed by the Marsh Family sometime before 1926 when the Sanborne map shows a frame porch off of the southern side of the house. The house still retains its long, front porch across the eastern facade in 1926. The bay window on the north side of the house is shown in the 1926 map as well. There also appears in the 1926 map an outbuilding that had not been shown before.
Between 1926 and 1928 the Marsh Family apparently undertook some additional work on the house and its appearance on the 1928 Sanborne map is far different than it was before. The front porch is entirely absent from the image, the porch on the southern side of the house is shown as enclosed and the new outbuilding appears as well. Essentially, the house as it appears on the 1928 Sanborne map is the same as today with only a few minor changes.
By the time the house changed hands in the 1940s from the Marsh Family to the Pfeiffer Family, it had gone through many transformations. From 1940 to today, it has changed little in its outward appearance, but who knows what secrets lie in the ground and in the walls.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2020.