HABS Documentation

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) program documents architecturally significant buildings/sites through the development of in-depth written reports, large-format black and white photographs, and architectural drawings. HABS recordation often serves as a mitigation strategy to document properties prior to alteration or demolition. These studies provide researchers with comprehensive documentation of buildings, sites, structures, and objects significant in American history and the growth and development of the built environment.

The National Park Service, which administers the HABS program, requires that historical reports are written by experienced historians that meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualifications Standards in Architectural History. Jean’s experience exceeds those standards. HABS written documentation is based on a thorough review of primary and secondary sources at a variety of repositories. The HABS Outline report has three primary sections:

Part I

The first section provides a description of the building’s original appearance, based on original drawings and/or historic views. This section also includes a series of scholarly, footnoted, essays that examine building’s place in the larger context of national, regional, and local history, as well as in architectural history.

Part II

The second section of the written report features architectural information, with categories intended to produce an analysis and description of the building as it currently exists.

Part III

The final section of the written report is bibliographic in nature, including all sources of information as well as other potential resources not investigated.

The HABS recordation process often requires assembling a team that includes a professional photographer who takes large-format, black-and-white photographs of the building’s setting, elevations, representative interior spaces, and significant detailing. If historic or current architectural drawings of the building are not available, Jean works with a colleague who develops floor plans. She also collaborates with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), who reviews and comments on the written report and on the views proposed for black-and-white HABS photography.

All documentation—written report, drawings, photography—is prepared using specific archival materials and archival processes in order to comply with the permanence standards that govern the HABS collection at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. A documentation package is also typically prepared for submittal to state archives.

Select projects are listed below.