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A plat map that shows the location of a lot for sale Ottawahillsplatmap.gif
A plat map that shows the location of a lot for sale

In the United States, a plat ( /plæt/ [1] or /plɑːt/ ) [2] (plan) is a cadastral map, drawn to scale, showing the divisions of a piece of land. United States General Land Office surveyors drafted township plats of Public Lands Surveys to show the distance and bearing between section corners, sometimes including topographic or vegetation information. City, town or village plats show subdivisions broken into blocks with streets and alleys. Further refinement often splits blocks into individual lots, usually for the purpose of selling the described lots; this has become known as subdivision.


After the filing of a plat, legal descriptions can refer to block and lot-numbers rather than portions of sections. [3] In order for plats to become legally valid, a local governing body, such as a public works department, urban planning commission, zoning board, or another organ of the state must normally review and approve them.


A pamphlet for a walking tour of Boise's original ten blocks BoiseInaugural1863Plat.jpg
A pamphlet for a walking tour of Boise's original ten blocks

The creation of a plat map marks an important step in the process of incorporating a town or city according to United States law. Because the process of incorporation sometimes occurred at a courthouse, the incorporation papers for many American cities may be stored hundreds of miles away in another state. For example, to view the original General Land Office plat for the city of San Francisco, California, filed in 1849, one must visit the Museum of the Oregon Territory in Oregon City, Oregon, as at that time Oregon City was the site of the closest federal land office to San Francisco. [4]


A plat of consolidation or plan of consolidation originates when a landowner takes over several adjacent parcels of land and consolidates them into a single parcel. In order to do this, the landowner will usually need to make a survey of the parcels and submit the survey to the governing body that would have to approve the consolidation. [5]

A plat of subdivision or plan of subdivision appears when a landowner or municipality divides land into smaller parcels. If a landowner owns an acre of land, for instance, and wants to divide it into three pieces, a surveyor would have to take precise measurements of the land and submit the survey to the governing body, which would then have to approve it. [6] A plat of subdivision also applies when a landowner/building owner divides a multi-family building into multiple units. This can apply for the intention of selling off the individual units as condominiums to individual owners. [ citation needed ]

A correction plat or amending plat records minor corrections to an existing plat, such as correcting a surveying mistake or a scrivener's error. Such plats can sometimes serve to relocate lot-lines or other features, but laws usually tightly restrict such use. [7]

A vacating plat functions to legally void a prior plat or portion of a plat. The rules normally allow such plats only when all the platted lots remain unsold and no construction of buildings or public improvements has taken place.

Other names associated with parcel maps are: land maps, tax maps, real estate maps, landowner maps, lot and block survey system and land survey maps. Parcel maps, unlike any other public real estate record, have no federal, state or municipal oversight with their development.


An 1878 plat map of Transitville (now Buck Creek, Indiana) Transitville, Indiana 1878.png
An 1878 plat map of Transitville (now Buck Creek, Indiana)


Plats contain a number of informational elements:

See also

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Surveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, art, and science of determining the terrestrial two-dimensional or three-dimensional positions of points and the distances and angles between them. A land surveying professional is called a land surveyor. These points are usually on the surface of the Earth, and they are often used to establish maps and boundaries for ownership, locations, such as the designed positions of structural components for construction or the surface location of subsurface features, or other purposes required by government or civil law, such as property sales.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Public Land Survey System</span> System of dividing land in the United States

The Public Land Survey System (PLSS) is the surveying method developed and used in the United States to plat, or divide, real property for sale and settling. Also known as the Rectangular Survey System, it was created by the Land Ordinance of 1785 to survey land ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Paris in 1783, following the end of the American Revolution. Beginning with the Seven Ranges in present-day Ohio, the PLSS has been used as the primary survey method in the United States. Following the passage of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, the Surveyor General of the Northwest Territory platted lands in the Northwest Territory. The Surveyor General was later merged with the General Land Office, which later became a part of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Today, the BLM controls the survey, sale, and settling of lands acquired by the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Commissioners' Plan of 1811</span> Street plan of Manhattan

The Commissioners' Plan of 1811 was the original design for the streets of Manhattan above Houston Street and below 155th Street, which put in place the rectangular grid plan of streets and lots that has defined Manhattan on its march uptown until the current day. It has been called "the single most important document in New York City's development," and the plan has been described as encompassing the "republican predilection for control and balance ... [and] distrust of nature". It was described by the Commission that created it as combining "beauty, order and convenience."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Section (United States land surveying)</span> One square mile

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Subdivision (land)</span> Divided piece of land

Subdivisions are the act of dividing land into pieces that are easier to sell or otherwise develop, usually via a plat. The former single piece as a whole is then known as a subdivision. Subdivisions may be simple, involving only a single seller and buyer, or complex, involving large tracts of land divided into many smaller parcels. If it is used for housing it is typically known as a housing subdivision or housing development, although some developers tend to call these areas communities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cadastre</span> Comprehensive register of the real estate or real propertys metes-and-bounds of a country

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James Thompson was an American surveyor who created the first plat of Chicago. Born in South Carolina, Thompson moved to Kaskaskia in southern Illinois as a young man and lived in the area for the rest of his life, working primarily as a surveyor. He was hired to plat settlements at the ends of the proposed Illinois and Michigan Canal in northern Illinois; he completed the plat of Chicago, the settlement at the eastern end, on August 4, 1830. After completing his survey of Chicago he returned to the Kaskaskia area and declined an offer of land in Chicago in favor of a cash payment. In addition to his surveying work, he served in various positions such as probate judge, county commissioner, and officer in the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War.


  1. American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd ed., s.v. "plat."
  2. from a letter published in The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 72, Part 1, London, 1802 : "... many attorneys ought to be whipt for not knowing how to spell; that plot a conspiracy and plat a piece of ground were pronounced exactly alike ..."
  3. "City of Corpus". Retrieved December 13, 2012.
  4. "First Plat of San Francisco Found (1904 artricle)". Clackamas County Historical Society. The Oregon City Enterprise. March 13, 2012. Retrieved February 11, 2017.
  5. "What is a Plat? – Real Estate Advice". May 25, 2010. Retrieved December 13, 2012.
  6. "Platbooks and Land Ownership Maps | Find Maps". Archived from the original on November 13, 2010. Retrieved December 13, 2012.
  7. "Land Development Frequently Asked Questions". May 9, 2012. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
  8. Kaplan Gordon, Lisa (December 10, 2019). "What Is a Plat Map? A Survey That Can Tell You a Lot About Your Property". Retrieved December 29, 2019.

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