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Prints and Photographs Division



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Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER)

The Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER) (photographs, measured drawings, and/or textual information for more than 35,000 structures and sites, ca. 1933-present) began with a proposal by architect Charles E. Peterson of the National Park Service to put a thousand unemployed architects to work for ten weeks documenting what he called “America's antique buildings.”

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Thornhill Plantation, Greene County, Alabama. W. A. Hotchkiss, delineator. ca. 1936. Prints and Photographs Division.
HABS-AL-238, sheet 1; LC-USZA1-1287.

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Housekeeper's cabin and present occupant. Alex Bush. December 30, 1934. Prints and Photographs Division.
HABS ALA 32-WATSO, 1-26.

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Operating under various administrative authorities for the first two years, HABS became a permanent program of the National Park Service in July 1934. In 1969 the Historic American Engineering Record began carrying out systematic documentation of engineering works and industrial sites. Continuing in the tradition of the Carnegie surveys, the documentation covers structures used by the wealthy as well as those of more humble circumstances. Demonstrating both the range of structures surveyed and the variety of materials documenting them are:

  • photographs of the La Jolla Women's Club in California (HABS, CAL,37-LAJOL,1-)
  • drawings showing the spatial arrangements of a Shaker washhouse in Hancock, Massachusetts (HABS, MASS,2-HANC,14-)
  • Documentation that makes it possible to reconstruct the layout of slave quarters or a plantation schoolhouse at Thornhill Plantation, Greene County, Alabama (HABS, ALA,32-WATSO,1-)
  • images that help one explore the structures used by Native American inhabitants of Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico (HABS, NM, 31-ACOMP,1-)

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Elevation and floorplan of housekeeper's cabin. W.A. Hotchkiss and Willis E. Jordan. ca. 1936. Historic American Buildings Survey. Prints and Photographs Division.
HABS AL-238, sheet 15; LC-USZA1-1767.

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At least one publication on landmarks relating to women's history has provided references to HABS and HAER documentation, and articles in a 1983 guide to the HABS/HAER collection suggest how the documentation may be used in conjunction with other sources to explore, for instance, the evolution and use of the American kitchen.3 In general, however, the surveys' rich holdings remain relatively untapped resources for the study of women's history.

For further information, see the collection profile: For rights information relating to the collection, see

Searching the Collection

Catalog records for HABS/HAER documentation can be searched in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog as well as in American Memory. The collection has its own listing in PPOC.

  • The catalog records describe all the documentation available for a given site. They can be searched by state, county and/or local place name and, to a certain extent, by building type.
  • The catalog records themselves can often provide intriguing clues about successive uses to which buildings have been put, such as the former stable in Des Moines, Iowa, that was converted in 1942 for use as housing for Women's Auxiliary Army Corps volunteers (HABS, IOWA, 77-DESMO, 24-N-).
  • The records include links (displayed as icons at the top of the page) to digitized images of whatever is available: drawings, photographs, data pages, photo captions.

Go to the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC)

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