The Historic American Buildings Survey began in 1935 and has continued under the auspices of various federal agencies. Since its inception, the survey has provided architects renderings of approximately 15,000 buildings nationwide. Residential, commercial, and industrial historic buildings are nominated to the survey by local, state, and federal officials and by interested citizens.
When completed, the architectural renderings are deposited in the National Archives. Drawings for most of these entries are available at the Library of Congress website. Simply fill in the query box with a search parameter such as “Congregational church Canandaigua.”
History of the Survey
The Survey, which antedates the National Register of Historic Places by 31 years, was the first attempt by the federal government to note historic buildings for posterity and document their appearance. The National Register program began in 1966 as a result of the National Historic Preservation Act passed by Congress that year. According to a 1983 study of the Historic American Buildings Survey (undertaken by Alicia Stamm of the National Park Service), almost half of the 12,000 entries on the survey had been demolished by 1966.
In this age of expansion and development, especially in Ontario County, it is important to note the existence of the Historic American Buildings Survey. Not only does the survey take note of our historic building resources, but it also emphasizes the importance of the buildings and documents their historic appearances.
Local historical groups should note that copies of the architects’ renderings may be obtained from the National Archives or the National Park Service. Survey entry numbers are provided here. A copy of the complete survey (as of 1983; there have been very few entries since) can be found in the reference section of the Library of Community College of the Finger Lakes.