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House History: A Guide to Uncovering the Stories of Local Buildings and Properties

Architectural Resources

Historic American Buildings Survey, creator. Mrs. D. B. Sutherland House, Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie County, IA. Documentation compiled after 1933. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

House histories and local history are inextricably linked. The location of homes, apartments, or built structures relate to the local community in numerous ways. Home styles, trends, builders, neighborhoods, and community development often reflect historical and cultural trends, as well as social and economic movements that have likely impacted the community or region. Often, individuals hope to gather information about the style, date, and builder or architect of their home, and are curious about previous owners, any alterations or additions that may have been made to the property, and how their home fits into the community, city, or region in which it is located.

The resources listed here may be able to help you determine the style and approximate date of your home, and whether additions or alterations have been made. Included in this section on Architectural Resources are collections from the Library of Congress, as well as recommendations of other resources available at the local, state, or national levels, found here under "More" and in other sections of this House History guide.


Library of Congress Collections

Library of Congress Digital Collections are free to view online. A selection of these resources is provided below with links to the home pages for each relevant archive. You can also explore the complete list of Digital Collections to find even more and see the latest additions.

Other Digital Collections

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are restricted and only available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available. Books about architecture and architects in specific locations, such as The Architecture of New York City, or Art Deco Chicago: Designing Modern America can be found in the Library of Congress collections; we suggest that you ask your local librarian for assistance in locating regional, statewide, or local guides to architecture in your community.

Library of Congress subject specialists have created research guides that provide background and resources for further study.

Local Resources

Resources listed here are likely available at locations near the structure being researched. The following types of records for house history research are addressed in other sections of this LibGuide. These include:

  • Deeds and related property records
  • Building permits
  • Local taxes, such as Property tax assessments and related records
  • Some genealogical records such as birth, marriage, or death records

In most cases, original records are held by local and regional government offices and agencies. Other primary resources may include: manuscript or published histories, biographies or memoirs; letters or papers of individuals or families; maps and atlases; photographs, prints and illustrations; architectural drawings; builders' or architects' records; local or regional newspapers; town or city directories; newsletters or directories or other publications of local groups and institutions including schools, churches, or social or fraternal clubs. These are most likely held at repositories local to the structure being researched, or in the surrounding region. Types of local institutions with house history materials include:

  • Libraries and archives
  • Historical societies
  • Local historic preservation offices and societies
  • Local and regional colleges and universities
  • Local or regional newsletters or publications

State and Regional Resources

National Resources

Many resources are discussed in other sections of this Guide, including maps, newspapers, photographs, directories, printed local histories, genealogical resources, and digital collections. Here are some additional libraries, repositories and organizations that may be helpful in a search for architectural resources.

Other Organizations and Repositories

Libraries - public and academic - may have architectural resources; check for local programs, and collections.

Scholarly Societies