Historic American Building Survey

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) is a long-range program to assemble a permanent national collection of measured drawings, photographs, and written data pertaining to historic American architecture. HABS was initiated in 1933 under a Civil Works appropriation. Its dual purpose was to produce accurate records of significant American Buildings and to provide employment for architects and draftsmen during the economic crisis of the Great Depression. In July 1934 the Survey was made a continuing program under the National Park Service in the United States Department of the Interior. Then, in 1935, a tripartite agreement was signed, by which the National Park Service was to administer the program in close cooperation with the American Institute of Architects and the Library of Congress. This agreement, with some subsequent modifications, remains the operating structure of HABS. The National Park Service, through its Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, administers the program and is responsible for qualitative standards, organization of projects, and selection of subjects for recording. The Library of Congress is the depository for the records, which are serviced by the staff of the Prints and Photographs Division. The American Institute of Architects provides professional counsel through its national membership.

The Survey intends to provide a thorough and accurate picture of the builder's art throughout the United States by including as many construction types, use types, and styles as possible. Structures represented in the Survey span the period from both prehistoric and colonial times to the early twentieth century and include examples from all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The collection now includes records on approximately 16,000 buildings, represented by about 31,000 drawings, 47,000 photographs, and 23,500 pages of written data.

Those who are interested in consulting the records of the Survey may either visit the Division of Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress, or refer to the catalogs that have been published by the Survey. A comprehensive, geographically arranged Catalog was published in 1941; a Supplement appeared in 1959. More recently, because of the extensiveness of HABS holdings, new catalogs are being published by states and areas. To date, state catalogs have appeared for New Hampshire (1963), Massachusetts (1965), Wisconsin (1965), Chicago and nearby Illinois Areas (1966), Michigan (1967), the District of Columbia (1968), and Utah (1969). Catalogs for Maine, New Jersey, Philadelphia, South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico are in progress. Most of these publications can be consulted in major university or public libraries.

Further questions regarding the consultation of records and ordering of reproductions may be addressed to the Division of Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20450. Questions regarding HABS recording and publishing programs may be addressed to The Historic American Buildings Survey, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. 20240.

Send Comments/Questions To: Gary Stanton