Surviving Fredericksburg Building Permits

The accompanying files are abstracted from the earliest known surviving building permits in the Fredericksburg Planning Office. These should correlate with the changes in values in the yearly land tax assessments of these properties. The land tax books are available for viewing in the Circuit Court Clerk's Office, annex.
It is important to keep in mind that the City of Fredericksburg was growing in area during this time period. There was a major expansion of the City in 1942, 1952, and 1957. In those areas of annexation subdivisions had already begun and many buildings were previously built in Spotsylvania County, prior to annexation. The land books for those years exist in the Spotsylvania County Clerk's office.
The surviving Fredericksburg building permits are from two time periods. To see an explanation of the listing of 1947-1949 lists please scroll to the bottom of this file.

In the earlier group permits were divided between "Permit to Build" and the "Permit to Alter or Repair". I have maintained the distinction by creating two flat files, "permit to build, 1940-1946" and "permit to alter or repair, 1938-1946." Although I created the files in permit order to see what was missing, I have re-sorted each file to street order making it easier to correlate to a location.
Permits to Build. This file is an index of all the surviving permits from 1940 to 1946. The 502 Permits to Build start with Permit #412 on 5 January 1940 and end with Permit #998 issued 10 December 1946. The permit numbers are sequential, suggesting that there may have been another record-keeping document and that it might be more complete. There a several missing permits, either lost or perhaps withdrawn. The greatest blank exists in the early months of 1945. Each permit is a tri-fold and is printed on the outside with:
The exterior information is written in a different hand than the Permit itself and with a writing hand of a secretary or bookkeeper. Again, this is consistent with a two-part book keeping system.
The form is addressed to the Office of the City Manager, and includes a blank above the owner/contractor information for the Permit No. and Date. The date is virtually always entered, but the Permit number is never entered here.
After defining the limits of the permit process, the form states "Application is hereby made for a permit to build in accordance with the Building Code, Zoning Ordinance and the following specifications:" There follows thirty-one blanks, the most important of which was #31 Remarks: in which the narrative summary of what was proposed was outlined.
Permit to Alter or Repair. This file is an index of all the surviving permits from 1938 to 1946. The 566 permits span from permit #61 issued 26 January 1938 to Permit #630 issued 27 November 1946. The permit numbers are sequential. There are very few missing permits. The exterior of the "Permit to Alter or Repair" has the same information and is also in a different and a pen from the contents of the Permit. As with the "Permit to Build" forms the forms are addressed to the City Manager and contains on these forms twenty-five blanks but with the same signature block as shown above at the bottom.

In January 1950, the City of Fredericksburg changed to printed carbon forms. The building permit applications (to build new, repair, or modification) are now combined into a single form titled Permit to Construct, Alter or Repair. The carbon copies survive from 1950 to 1960. In addition a perforated separable form "Plumbing Permit" was now in use.
I have not created a plumbing permit index, perhaps we should. As I started making these files I tried to sort by permit number. This was roughly sequential, but hardly rigorous. It suggests to me that the office now was permanently staffed (Mr. C. H. Hubble signed most of the requests) and the carbons made a double-entry system unnecessary. These I have entered by lot number (lot numbers were south to north, west to east). The information on the form is much more technical, but much less frequently completed.

Building Use
Lot Size
Building Size
Building to property line information
joist, rafter, and stud sizes and spans
sheeting thickness
type roofing
Heating plant
Wired for Power
Street grades
the explanation section

Permits were signed by
Address of Applicant (this is often the contractor)
and Approval officer
The reverse side of the form had a generic street view to annotate with a drawing. This was rarely done. The reverse also had a place for
Owner's name
Building Address
Estimated Cost
These last lines were only completed on the Permits from 1950 and very occasionally after that.

The building permits for 1947-1949 are not known to have survived. However, during this period a list of the properties for which permits were issued was sent episodically to the Commissioner of Revenue office so that the land tax values could be adjusted. These pages were temporary lists and not intended for public use. However from the copies of these lists surviving the accompanying file of building permits have been assembled. Although the lists were separated into "permits to build" and "permits to modity and repair" only a single file has been created. However, the lists for 1948 included on most pages the number of the permit, information that was not transmitted in 1947 or 1949. The file has a slightly different format because the information available was not as complete or consistent as the copies of the permit themselves. This file is included because it helps fill out the building practices of an active time of expansion and change in the built environment of the City.

I was generously allowed access to these records by Erik Nelson, Senior Planner for the City of Fredericksburg. There are two Hollinger boxes of building permit records that he has stored since discovering them early in the time he was employed in the Planning Department. All errors are, of course, mine. I would appreciate being informed of any missinterpretations, misspellings, or misreadings.

Last Update: 9 January 2014

Entered by: Gary Stanton, Department of Historic Preservation

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