W. 1/2 of N.W. 1/4 Section 17.39.14 [Chicago]


The West Loop in 1886.

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This fabulously detailed map of several city blocks in Chicago’s West Loop 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 Madison, Loomis, Harrison, and Ashland, and shows a largely affluent neighborhood with numerous brick buildings, many of which show stone facades. Buildings of interest include a natatorium, the Salvation Army Building, and the Church of the Epiphany. The last was completed the year prior to publication and was recently converted into an event space. It’s one of the few buildings that remain today, as the area is largely occupied by Skinner Park, Whitney Young High School, Chicago Police Training Academy, and the Eisenhower Expressway.

The map was issued as plate 8 from Volume IV 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): 23.5

Condition: A-

Condition Description: Slightly brittle paper has a few small tears around the outer edges, chipped corners, and other marginal wear. Lightly toned, consistent with age, but remains in very good condition overall.


1 in stock