E. 1/2 of S.W. 1/4 Section 4.39.14 [Chicago]


Chicago’s rough patch – “Little Hell”, then Cabrini-Green.

1 in stock

Are you interested in a high resolution image? Email me for inquiries.


This fabulously detailed map of several city blocks in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood was published in response to the devastating fire that rampaged through the city between October 8-10, 1871. Elisha Robinson, its creator, was one of the numerous publishers who issued atlases specifically for the fire insurance industry. In order to properly assess risk, insurers needed information on building size, construction material, and the availability of water. Surveys were painstakingly performed, usually on foot, and the results are among the most complete snapshots of the city’s physical makeup in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In theory, every single building that existed at the time of publication is outlined within the borders of the map. Color was applied by stencil and shows the construction material of each structure; pink is brick, yellow is wood, brown is stone, and blue is iron. Crosses on a building footprint indicate its use as a stable, or otherwise likely to hold combustible materials. Water and sewer lines, street elevation (which affects the flow), fire hydrants, and cisterns are also all noted.

The image is bounded by Division Street, Sedgwick Street, Chicago Avenue, and Larrabee Street and shows a relatively impoverished, working-class neighborhood. Wooden buildings are densely clustered, often two to a lot, and nearby industries would have been constant sources of odors and noise. Examples include a large laundry, wagon manufacturer, malt house, and varnish factory. A large wooden hall and several Swedish churches allude to the immigrant composition of the neighborhood.

In the late 19th century, the area was known as ‘Little Hell’ from a large gas furnace located just west of the map. It played a pivotal role in Chicago’s early gangster years as the original location of Little Sicily, and would eventually become home to the city’s most notorious housing project, Cabrini-Green.

The map was issued as plate 16 from Volume III of Robinson’s Fire Insurance Atlas. Published in Chicago by Elisha Robinson in 1886.

Map Details

Publication Date: 1886

Author: Elisha Robinson

Sheet Width (in): 32.75

Sheet Height (in): 22.4

Condition: A-

Condition Description: On linen, as originally issued. Several dirty fingerprints visible around the outer edges of the image and margin. Old tabs on either side and slightly brittle paper has a few small chips and tears along the outside. Very good overall.


1 in stock