This set of maps showing the downtown area of Sydney in the inter-war period, was created for the Fire Underwriters’ Association of NSW. It comprises a detailed survey of the buildings in the most built-up commercial precincts of the City.
Their purpose was to record the locations and plan view of properties, together with building materials, associated fire risks, and fire precautions. This information could be used to assess the level of risk for a building to be insured.
The maps cover the commercial heart of the City, from Circular Quay to the Haymarket, and from Darling Harbour to Elizabeth Street. Some other areas are also included: parts of East Sydney; blocks around Bay St Ultimo; and some high-risk industrial sites on Blackwattle bay. The Rocks etc north of Grosvenor and Margaret Streets are not covered.
The key map includes an explanatory legend for the colours and symbols used in the maps. The maps are extensively annotated to show the names of firms occupying buildings, the businesses they conducted, details such as positions of stairways, street addresses and lots more.
The scale of the plans is 40 feet to the inch (1:480) except for the key map which is 528 feet to the inch, or 1:6336.
The maps have various dates between 1917 and 1939. We don’t know if this means it took over twenty years for the full set to be completed, or if they were completed at an early stage and some sheets are updated editions.
When a building was demolished, or a new building constructed, or significant changes made, amendments to the relevant map sheet were issued by the Fire Underwriters’ Association. These were intended to be cut to shape and pasted over the obsolete section of the map, to bring it up to date. Many of the original sheets in the City of Sydney Archives have these pasted updates glued in place.