The Historic American Buildings Survey, commonly referred to as HABS, was established in 1933 in an effort to relieve the crushing impact of unemployment in the United States during the Great Depression. It was created by the National Park Service with a mission to document the architectural heritage of the United States and to put people, such as architects, draftsmen, and others, back to work.
In Indiana, there is evidence that the HABS program was active as early at the inception of the program. The Drawing and Documents Archive here at Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning recently uncovered some HABS documents that show an overview of important historical structures located within the state. A year after the program was established in 1933, an Indiana HABS map from 1934 shows the locations of projects in District No. 24. Two years after this map, in 1936, a map showing the location of projects in Indiana districts was completed. These maps are not only important because they show the structures Indiana’s historic past, but also because these maps were on the forefront of a massive undertaking that was to help the United States pull itself out of an economic pitfall while reigniting the interest of America’s storied past. As a result, these maps are an important part of both the history of Indiana and the nation.
The Historic American Buildings Survey collection of documents, surveys, photographs, and more, is now housed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and is in the public domain. HABS is an ongoing project and new structures are being added to this important resource. Digitalization of the collection is also underway. For more information, please visit the Library of Congress website on HABS: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/habs_haer/. The Drawings and Documents Archive also houses many HABS drawings relating to Indiana architecture.
As a side note, there is also the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) as well at the Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS). These collections are also housed in the Library of Congress.
Posted by Matt Kriegl, Graduate Assistant at the Drawings + Documents Archive