South Rotunda and the Heritage Collections Reading Room will be closed 22 July - 8 Sept. Find out more.

Fire insurance plans

Fire insurance plans were prepared for insurance companies so they could gauge the fire risk posed by different buildings. The plans were also used to investigate insurance claims.

The plans are extremely detailed and show the buildings' occupants, construction materials and fire protection facilities. They are usually known as 'Mahlstedt plans', after the main publishing company that produced them.

An employee of Mahlstedt would visit subscribers when updates to the plans were required, and would then paste in corrected bits of map in the appropriate place. The plans gradually altered over time to reflect current conditions, and as a result they cannot be dated with certainty.

The plans were originally bound as enormous books with thick covers held in place with bolts, but we have disbound most of them for conservation reasons.

As they are so detailed, the plans do not cover very large areas. We hold most versions of the volume covering Melbourne's CBD from the years 1888 to 1962, but we also hold a number that show the South Melbourne area. In addition, we hold single editions covering the cities of Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong, as well as a handful of cities from other Australian states. The majority of our Mahlstedt volumes are digitised and available online.