Local History Thursday: How to Research Your Home or Building’s History in Mesa County

Are you interested in knowing when your home was built, who lived there before and other information? Whether you own or rent your house, you can use these resources to research your house’s history (or your apartment or business’s history, for that matter).

 

Mesa County Assessor records

You can use real property records held by the assessor’s office to find out who owned a home and when a home was built. You can even work all the way back to the plot’s original owner. While the assessor records online do not go into that much detail, they should provide your house’s age, and may contain photos and drawings of your home. By going in person to the Mesa County Assessor’s office to research your home further, you can find out what modifications were made over time by looking at building permits. You can also find earlier information about previous owners.

Here is a look at the real property records for the Bucklin House, a Queen Anne style Victorian at 634 N 5th Street across from Hawthorne Park (a home once owned by James Bucklin, lawyer for the Grand Junction Town Company and crafter of the town’s charter government). The record cites the home’s date of construction as 1890.

 

Grand Junction City Directories (covering all of Mesa County)

Old city directories show not only who lived in a home, but often what occupation a person had and where a person worked. You can access Grand Junction City Directories dating back to 1902 on Ancestry Library Edition (accessible from our eResources page and available from home with your library card number during the coronavirus pandemic, and from any Mesa County Libraries branch in normal times). You can also look at physical copies of the City Directories in our Rashleigh Regional History Room once the Central Library reopens.

An address search of US City Directories conducted on Ancestry Library Edition.

City directories have long contained a section listing properties by address, so that you can look up a property by street and number and see what people or business occupied it. While the 1912 City Directory lacked this feature, we can still determine that James Bucklin lived at 634 N 5th Street by using Ancestry’s search to limit to Grand Junction City Directories, and by searching for that exact address.

 

 

 

 

The 1912 Grand Junction City Directory shows James Bucklin living at 634 N 5th Street

We find that James Bucklin was in a firm called Bucklin and Tupper, that his law partner was named Henry Tupper, and that their office was located in the Grand Valley National Bank Building. Other occupants listed during the 1910’s include Mary Bucklin, wife of James Bucklin, and Marie Lapham, widow of Albert Lapham. Does your house have a ghost? Maybe by the end of your research, you’ll be able to call your ghost by name.

 

 

 

 

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

If you have an older home in an older part of town, your home might have been included on the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. The Sanborn company developed the maps so that they could keep track of the properties that they insured. They now serve as an historical resource for many communities. Looking at a Sanborn map can give you information about both your house and neighborhood’s history.

Key to the 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map

Each Sanborn map contains a key on its first page. This key tells you how to look for your building’s material of construction and other valuable information. Page four of the 1907 Sanborn map shows the intersection of Gunnison Avenue and 5th Street. We can see the Bucklin house at 634 N 5th Street, on the corner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page four from the 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, showing the home at 634 N 5th Street (Gunnison and 5th) and its neighborhood.

The house’s yellow color tells us it is of frame construction. X’s drawn through buildings in the neighborhood show where stables stood, and small structures at the rear of lots are usually outhouses. The lack of an outhouse on the Bucklin property would seem to indicate the early presence of indoor plumbing. If you look closely at 633 Gunnison Avenue, to the east of the Bucklin House, you will even see a structure noted as a canvas tent.

Have fun researching your house’s history. If you need some help getting started, you can always contact a librarian.

Posted in General, Local History.

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