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Discovering the Lay of the Land


One giant task in writing a historical novel is trying to get a picture of how the city appeared during the time period you're writing about. The pictured image here is from a Sanborn fire map for a time period within 2 years of Hint of Copper's setting in 1948. Sanborn maps were created every few years to assist insurance companies in evaluating potential risks of fire. On this section of the map, I've traced out potential back-alley paths available to pedestrians (in red dashes) and vehicles behind the Karrick Building. I've listed the names of time-appropriate businesses along Main Street by looking at old period photos and cross-referencing the pictured buildings and maps with the information contained in the Polk Directory for 1948. While it may not be a perfect picture, it does give a sense of the built environment that created much of the downtown blocks between 1st and 3rd South, between Main and West Temple, and helps settle questions of whether or not a character in the story could have moved around in the manner described. I was struck not only by the pathways but also by the number of inner block buildings that didn't front any main street.

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