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Digital Toronto Fire Insurance Atlases and Plans

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Details of Atlas of the city of Toronto and vicinity. (Goad) 2nd ed. 1893. Plate 47

Fire insurance Plans

Fire insurance plans are detailed large-scale maps of cities, smaller municipalities, and industrial sites. These plans were prepared for and leased to insurance companies who needed to know building sizes and construction materials in order to determine the fire risk and therefore to be able to quote insurance premiums to customers.

Plans were updated frequently as buildings were burned, torn down, rebuilt or new areas were developed. When minor corrections were necessary, revisions were printed and distributed to the agents to paste over outdated sections of the maps. This sometimes resulted in multiple layers and plans with the same date having different revisions.

New editions were only published periodically, when major changes took place. Agents were required to return the outdated plans to the mapping company, in order to receive revised plans. These returned plans were always destroyed.

Use

Today, researchers find fire insurance plans an invaluable information source, using them for a variety of purposes, including to:

Key to symbols, colours and abbreviations, 1880-92

Coverage of Toronto and its communities and neighbourhoods

The forerunner of fire insurance mapping of Toronto was the 1858 Boulton atlas. At one inch to 100 feet it was the largest scale map of Toronto produced to that date and the first to show construction materials of building.

Charles E. Goad (1848-1910), who initiated fire insurance mapping in Canada in 1875, produced his first fire insurance plan of the city of Toronto, Ontario in 1880 (revised in 1889 and 1892). It consisted of two volumes of large sheet maps at the scale of one inch to 50 feet (relative scale 1:600). Plans measured 54 x 64 cm, or 21 x 25 inches.

Generally only developed areas (usually those within the city proper) were included. Maps of outlying areas were not produced unless they were built up. Thus, separate plans for places such as West Toronto Junction and Yorkville were prepared in the 1880s.

Detailed plans sometimes were provided of commercial and industrial sites, either within an atlas itself (e.g. Consumers' Gas Company and Gooderham and Worts in 1880, or as separately issued plans (e.g. the Grand Trunk Railway Elevators in 1890).

Beginning in 1910, the expansion of Toronto led to the production of multiple volumes of plans, with each volume covering a different part of the city. The amount of detail varied; it was usually intense in the city core and for major buildings, while buildings further from the city centre, when represented at all, were shown only by outline and type of structure. Revisions to these area volumes were frequent from the turn of the century to the 1940s in response to changing development and growth in Toronto.

In 1917, Goad's sons sold the business to the Canadian Fire Underwriters Association, who published plans under the imprint of Underwriters' Survey Bureau Limited. In 1965, the USB became the Plan Division of the Canadian Underwriters' Association.

The final Insurance Plan of the City of Toronto was produced between 1952 and 1973. At one inch to 100 feet and measuring 30 x 33 cm, or 13 x 13 inches, they were smaller in scale than earlier plans and kept in binders. In 1974, the Insurers' Advisory Organization took over production of Canadian plans, but in 1975 ceased production of fire insurance plans due to escalating cost.

Bibilographies and catalogues

Catalogue of Canadian fire insurance plans, 1875-1975

Canadian fire insurance plans in Ontario collections, 1876-1973

Finding aid for fire insurance plans held by Canadiana.
Note: most of these plans are now housed in the Toronto Reference Library.

Fire insurance plans in the National Map Collection = Plans d'assurance-incendie de la collection nationale des cartes et plans