Which Virginia wine goes best with squab ? One of the many valuable tools available to historic researchers are the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. Recently, UVA Special Collections posted the 1907 and 1920 Sanborns in a searchable format. There are 100s of forgotten treasures in these maps. One is a Pigeon Aviary, located in Belmont. [

Site of the Elliott Ave Pigeon Aviary (1920)

In 1606, pigeons were introduced to North America for their homing skills and for consumption. Hence, the Colonial Era menu item: squab pie (from the meat of young pigeons). Incidentally, when sharing the location of the former Aviary (titled “Squab Plant” on the map) with a current Belmont resident, he noted that he sees dozens of pigeons at that spot, sitting on telephone wires. While clearly not the same pigeons, many pigeons have a nesting instinct that tethers them to their birth site which, in turn, made them well suited for training as message deliverers during time of wars. Who knows if today’s “city doves” are the descendants of the Flapper Era pigeons ?