Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)

Article excerpt

The Great Depression, like the contemporary economic crisis, struck a grievous blow to the building trades and professions in the United States, arresting construction projects throughout the country and leaving laborers and architects alike jobless. In response, architect Charles E. Peterson of the National Park Service proposed an innovative New Deal program that would relieve unemployment among architects, draftsmen, and photographers while documenting the nation's threatened architectural heritage.


Inaugurated in I933, the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) would be administered by the National Park Service, with professional support from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and funding from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Since 1934, the Library of Congress has preserved HABS's rich documentary legacy in hundreds of thousands of photographs, drawings, and other materials.

In 1973, CHS became the designated repository for copies of California HABS documentation, acquiring a large trove of records from the San Francisco offices of the National Park Service, Western Region. The bulk of this collection--which continues to expand with regular deposits--consists of duplicate HABS records for California and the Western Region, some of which are not part of the Library of Congress's extensive holdings.


The CHS collection contains the exhaustive and methodically prepared photographic prints, negatives, photographic pages, inventory work sheets, photograph-data book reports, and measured drawings that constitute the HABS program's official documentation. …