Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lowell Atlases

One of the most useful tools I've found to research older land records are the city of Lowell insurance atlases that were created between 1879 and 1936. Published in color in large-format books, each atlas consists of a base map that shows the entire city divided up into "plates", and then the various plates, which are blow-ups of slices of the city.

These plates contain an incredible amount of detail, showing the outlines of each lot, the footprint of any building on the lot, color coding for the building type (yellow for wood, pink for brick, gray for stone), the last name of the owner of the lot, the square footage of the lot, and the street number.

Atlases exist for the following years: 1879, 1896, 1906, 1924, and 1936.

These atlases are all available online courtesy of UMass Lowell's library system. I prefer the online version to the original paper maps because with the superb clarity of the online images, users can zoom in to 300 percent magnification and read numbers and annotations that otherwise would require a magnifying glass to discern.

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