Sanborn maps of Old Town, Maine

Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
I have been given two Sanborn fire insurance maps of Old Town, Maine from December 1906 and October 1912 which have some very interesting information about the canoe companies there as shown below. More information about maps like this can be found at if you are not familar with them.

The first image is from the 1906 map and shows the "M'F'R Canvas Canoes" which was located on Shirley Street behind the hardware store. It had a "40 HP Eng." which ran on power from Jordan's Mill across town. This was where the first Indian Old Town Canoes were manufactured and apparently was still being used in 1906 even though they had expanded to the factory on Middle Street around 1901. This was adjacent to the "M'F'Y Ointment" building where the Bickmore Gall Cure was being manufacutured. The green colors were used for buildings that were designated as "Special" which presumably ment higher fire risks in this case.

The second image is from 1906 and shows the "Oldtown Canoe Co." on Middle Street which was powered by a "25 HP Gas Eng." on the first floor. The first expansion building has been drawn in pencil along the "City Stable" and "Wood Shed" buildings. The image at shows how this looked from the street.

The third image is from 1906 and shows the E. M. White and Carleton Canoe companies. It is interesting to note that the White building was shown with a gray exterior which designated iron and was described as "IR.CL" (Iron Clad?) which appears to have avoided the "Special" green risk designation that was applied to the Carleton factory. The elevated risk rating appears to have been accurate since this Carleton building burned on May 17th, 1911. The red rectangle at the top shows that the Bickmore Gall Cure Company was building a new brick building in that location.

The fourth image is from 1906 and shows the Carleton canoe manufacturing and storage buildings that were adjacent to the river. The images at and also show them. These buildings did not appear to have burned in 1911 since they are shown on the 1912 map but without any references to canoes.

The fifth image is from 1906 and shows the "Indian Agency" which was adjacent to a "Canoe Store Ho." which may have been for canoes that were built by the Indians and sold through the store.

The sixth image is a postcard showing the inside of the "Indian Agency Store" with the things they had to sell including a small model bark canoe in the lower left corner.



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The first image below shows the buildings of the Indian Agency Store and Carleton Canoe Company along the river in Old Town from the batteau ferry landing on Indian Island.

The second image is from the 1912 map and shows the first expansions of the Old Town Canoe Company. The red parts are brick construction and the yellow ones are a wooden frame.

The third image shows how the Old Town expansion looked from the top of a building on Main Street after the second brick expansion was added to the back a few years later.

The fourth image shows how the White factory had expanded by 1912. This scan does not include the Carleton factory since it had been converted to a "Lime and cement storage" building after the fire.

I have not included any scans of the hardware store or Indian Agency area maps from 1912 since these no longer had any references to canoe manufacturing or storage. The Bickmore Gall Cure ointment references had also been removed from that area since everything had been moved to the new building.



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Ditto what Dan said.

Benson, you should write this up for the Journal... Feature-length story, all the details, from finding them, to figuring out what it all is...

This is great work Mr. Gray! Will you be doing more of this archival digging? If so I look forward to it.
you should write this up for the Journal... Feature-length story, all the details, from finding them, to figuring out what it all is...

I have forwared this information to Patty for her to consider adding to a future Journal. The problem is that I am much better at researching than writing.

Will you be doing more of this archival digging?

Yes, I will probably continue archival digging like this for quite a while, especially if people keep giving me access to interesting old stuff. Thanks,

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I have attached some links to Google maps below if anyone is curious what these and other similar buildings look like today.

The first Indian Old Town Canoe Company factory is now an apartment building at,-68.646744&spn=0.001483,0.002055&z=19 and is shown at,355.16,,0,5 from the street level. The hardware store is gone now and the Old Town Canoe Company building on Middle Street is the red one on the left side of this picture. This is the building at,-68.648431&spn=0.002966,0.004109&t=h&z=18 and is shown at,-68.647736&spn=0,0.002055&z=19 from the street.

The Carleton Canoe Company factory on South Main Street appears to be a private home now. It can be seen at,-68.645201&spn=0.001483,0.002055&z=19 and is shown at,266.75,,1,-10 from the street.

The White factory, the Carleton buildings on the river, and the Indian Agency buildings are all gone now. The batteau ferry to Indian Island has been replaced with a bridge. The images at,-68.652009&spn=0.002981,0.004109&t=h&z=18 and,181.38,,0,5 show how it all looks now.

Other canoe manufacturing buildings can also be viewed this way. The Morris factory from the early 1900s is at and today. The Google map view is at,-68.709633&spn=0.001274,0.002253&t=h&z=19 and,341.74,,1,-10 has the street view.

The Kennebec factory image from the early 1900s is at and today. The Google map view is at,-69.630918&spn=0.00128,0.002253&t=h&z=19 and,50.61,,0,5 has the street view.

The Penn Yan factory image at is from the mid-1900s. The Google map view is at,-77.060975&spn=0.002643,0.004506&t=h&z=18 and,45.98,,1,5 has the street view.

Evan Gerrish's shop was listed at various times from number 18 to 24 Broad Street in Bangor but this area has been replaced with a modern parking garage so it isn't very interesting to see now.

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Today's treasure hunt was for the location of the Penobscot Canoe Company. It was in Milford, Maine on the Sanborn map from 1921 as shown below. The buildings appear to have been replaced by a gas station many years ago and most of the lot is empty now as shown at on Google maps. This is not the happy ending anticipated by the attached newspaper article from March 4th, 1916 when they first opened.



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So much growth in 7 years! What does the darker pink shading on number 2 and 3 and the addition to number 3 (in the 1914 version) indicate? Interesting that the RR has changed from the B&A RR to GTRR. And canoes were "piled" all over the place.
I believe that these maps used the Sanborn map color conventions as described at in more detail. This means that pink is brick as Michael suggested and yellow is wood. The canoes were frequently piled up around the factory while the filler cured as shown below. They even got piled in back yards as shown at from the late teens. The picture at shows when they started putting them on the roof.


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The original Certificate of Organization for the Robertson and Old Town Canoe Company from January 31st, 1902 was with these maps as shown below. This doesn't provide much new information but it was interesting to see the original signatures.


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