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Boston (Mass.). Building Department


Historical note

The Building Department was established by Chapter 280 of the Acts of 1871 “An Act to Provide for the regulation and Inspection of Buildings, the more effectual Prevention of Fire and the Better Protection of Life and Property in the City of Boston.” This act was superseded by Chapter 419 of the Acts of 1892. This act, although amended from time to time, remained in effect until August 1, 1907, when it was superseded by Chapter 550 of the Acts of 1907, which remained as the Building Law of the City of Boston until 1943. Chapter 479 of the Acts of 1938 as amended, “An Act for the Codification, Revision and Amendment of the Laws Relative to the Construction, Alterations and Maintenance of Buildings and other Structures in the City of Boston” was passed by the Legislature on June 27, 1938, with the provision that it take effect upon its acceptance by the Boston City Council, whereupon the Council proceeded to hold a series of public hearings on proposed amendments submitted by architects, builders, property owners and various civic organizations. As a result of these hearings, numerous amendments to the act were accepted by the City Council. The Act was approved by the Council in 1943. Since 1943, the code underwent several minor and a number of major amendments or revisions. On January 1, 1975, the Massachusetts State Building Code, Chapter 802 of the Acts of 1972, as amended, went into effect in the City of Boston and superseded all previous codes. The Building Department and the Housing Inspection Department were abolished and all powers and duties transferred to the Inspectional Services Department by Chapter 19 of the Ordinances of 1981.

Found in 17 Collections and/or Records:

Building Codes

Identifier: 5410.006
Scope and Contents

Printed volumes of legislation relating to buildings for the years 1886, 1887, 1892, 1895, 1901, 1915, 1921, 1944, 1954, 1962, 1964 and 1970.

Dates: 1886-1970

Building Commissioner correspondence

Identifier: 5410.013
Scope and Contents note

Includes incoming and outgoing correspondence of the Building Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner. This collection is unprocessed.

Dates: 1969-1975

Building Commissioner subject files

Identifier: 5410.007
Scope and Contents

Subject files of the Building Commissioner. Includes correspondence, reports, plans, etc.

Dates: circa 1958-1985

Building Commissioner's Bulletin

Identifier: 5410.008
Scope and Contents note

Building Commissioner's Bulletins relating to approvals for use of new building products. Includes bulletins #101-#184.

Dates: 1962-1972

Building Department annual reports

Identifier: 5410.014
Scope and Contents

Annual report of the Building Department from 1939.

Dates: 1939-1956 with gaps

Building Inspector reports

Identifier: 5410.016
Dates: 1879-1903 with gaps

Building permit plans

Identifier: 5410.004
Scope and Contents The Building permit plans series includes building plans that were submitted to the Inspectional Services Department (formerly the Building Department) for approval by the Building Inspector. Building plans and plot plans are required to be submitted with the long-form permit application which is used for new construction and updates to existing buildings. The Building Inspector reviews the plans prior to the issuance of the building permit. This series includes plans submitted in paper...
Dates: circa 1883-1995; Majority of material found in 1902-1995

Demolished building permit files ("Takedowns")

Identifier: 5410.001
Scope and Contents

Building permit files of demolished buildings, also called "Takedowns." File jacket usually includes original building permit, permits for repair or renovation, violation notices, correspondence and permit to repair or raze (Takedown permit).

Dates: circa 1880s-1990s

Demolished building (takedowns) photographs

Identifier: 5410.002
Scope and Contents

Photograph files of buildings ordered razed by the City of Boston. Photographs document condition of building just prior to demolition and usually include photograph of lot after demolition.

Dates: circa 1950-1990

Hearing transcripts

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 5410.018
Scope and Contents

Includes transcripts of hearings before the Building Commissioner primarily relating to nursing homes, hospitals, etc., circa 1941-1966.

Dates: circa 1941-1966

Hotel Vendome records

 Series — Box 1
Identifier: 5410.011
Scope and Contents

Records relating to the collapse of the Hotel Vendome which killed nine Boston firefighters on June 17, 1972. Includes files of permits, correspondence, etc. of the Hotel Vendome at 154-170 Commonwealth avenue that were reviewed during the investigation into the collapse; correspondence relating to the investigation; final report of the investigation; and supplemental report on the reconstruction.

Dates: circa 1911-1973

Permit application index cards

Identifier: 5410.019
Scope and Contents

Index cards for each property listing years permits applied for with permit number.

Dates: circa 1916-1970

Permits and permit log books

Identifier: 5410.003
Scope and Contents Miscellaneous building/alteration permits and logs of permits issued and applications filed. Includes permits to do alterations, 1874-1876, 1886 and 1888; unfiled building permits, circa 1969-1973; permit log book pages, circa 1872-1880 (pages were salvaged from log books damaged by water); logs of daily entry sheets of new construction, alterations, elevators, fire escapes, takedowns, etc., 1946-1947, 1950-1959, logs of gas fitting permits, 1939, 1953-1963; log of electrical permits,...
Dates: 1872-1973


 Series — Box SB - 015
Identifier: 5410.017
Scope and Contents

Includes photographs of the building collapse at 2000 Commonwealth Avenue in 1971.

Dates: 1971-1972

Photographs of Building Department offices

 Series — Box SB - 015
Identifier: 5410.009
Scope and Contents

Includes photographs of Building Department offices from circa 1917 including Commissioner's Office, Inspectors' desks, plans area, and document file vault. Also includes photographs of Building Department offices in the New City Hall, 1968.

Dates: circa 1917, 1968

Special examination reports and photographs

 Item — Box 1
Identifier: 5410.010
Scope and Contents

Reports of special examinations of buildings in response to complaints of unsafe conditions. Includes photographs of buildings.

Dates: 1914-1918

Street numbering records

Identifier: 5410.012
Scope and Contents

Includes Building Department copies of notices of changes in street numbering sent by the Public Works Department and street number logs from 1898-1946, 1951-1958 and 1964-1970.

Dates: 1898-1972