Guide to Federal Records

Records of the Public Buildings Service [PBS]


(Record Group 121)
1801-1993

Overview of Records Locations

Table of Contents

  • 121.1 Administrative History
  • 121.2 Records of Predecessor Agencies in the Treasury Department 1801-1945
    • 121.2.1 General correspondence
    • 121.2.2 Records concerning land acquisitions and sales by the United States
    • 121.2.3 Miscellaneous and fiscal records
    • 121.2.4 Treasury records concerning federal art activities
    • 121.2.5 Records concerning contractors' claims against the Federal Government
  • 121.3 Records of the Section of Fine Arts, Public Buildings Administration 1933-43
  • 121.4 Records of the Public Buildings Service (GSA) and its Predecessors 1838-1993
    • 121.4.1 Records concerning land acquisitions and sales by the United States
    • 121.4.2 Records relating to improvements of Presidential homes
    • 121.4.3 Records relating to federal construction activities
  • 121.5 Records of Collaborating Boards and Committees 1921-41
    • 121.5.1 Records of the Board of Consultants on Hospitalization
    • 121.5.2 Records of the Advisory Committee for the National Archives Building
  • 121.6 Cartographic Records (General) 1833-1974
  • 121.7 Motion Pictures (General) 1940-43
  • 121.8 Still Pictures (General) 1855-1967

Top of Page

121.1 Administrative History

Established: In the General Services Administration (GSA), December 11, 1949, to supersede the Public Buildings Administration, Federal Works Agency (FWA), abolished by the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act (63 Stat. 380), June 30, 1949.

Predecessor Agencies:

In the Department of the Treasury:
  • Construction Branch (1853-ca. 1865)
  • Office of the Supervising Architect (ca. 1865-1933)
  • Public Buildings Branch (PBB), Procurement Division (1933-39)
  • Branch of Buildings Management, National Park Service (1933-39)
  • Public Buildings Administration (PBA), FWA (1939-49)

Functions: Designs, constructs, manages, maintains, and protects most federally owned and leased buildings. Acquires, utilizes, and has custody of GSA property.

Finding Aids: W. Lane Van Neste and Virgil E. Baugh, comps., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Public Buildings Service, PI 110 (1958); supplement in National Archives microfiche edition of preliminary inventories.

Related Records:
Record copies of publications of the Public Buildings Service in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government.
Records of the Branch of Buildings Management, National Park Service, in RG 42, Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital.
Records of the Public Buildings Administration in RG 162, General Records of the Federal Works Agency.

Top of Page

121.2 Records of Predecessor Agencies in the Treasury Department
1801-1945

History: Construction Branch established in Department of the Treasury, 1853, to consolidate Treasury functions relating to construction of federal buildings outside the District of Columbia. Renamed the Office of the Supervising Architect, ca. 1865. Assigned to PBB of Procurement Division, Treasury Department, following establishment of that division by EO 6166, June 10, 1933. PBB abolished, with functions, along with those of abolished Branch of Buildings Management, National Park Service, transferred to PBA of FWA, by Reorganization Plan No. I of 1939, effective July 1, 1939. PBA superseded by PBS, 1949. See 121.1.

Related Records: Record copies of publications of the Office of the Supervising Architect and the Public Buildings Administration in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government.

Top of Page

121.2.1 General correspondence

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1852-1930 (with gaps). Letters sent, chiefly by the Supervising Architect, 1888-1912 (1,015 ft.), with registers, 1852-1901. Letters and telegrams sent by the Technical Division, Office of the Supervising Architect, 1897-1908. Letters sent by the Secretary of the Treasury concerning customhouses and other buildings, 1851-63, with registers, 1857-63. Letters sent concerning the construction of the Treasury Extension Building, 1855-63; a hygienic laboratory at Washington, DC, 1902-3, 1908-9; and other buildings, 1871- 1910. Letters sent by the Superintendent of Construction of the Post Office, Annapolis, MD, 1900-1 (in Philadelphia). Letters sent by the Custodian of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Building, Seattle, WA, 1909 (in Seattle). Letters sent and received by the construction superintendent, concerning the erection of the Washington, DC, Post Office, 1891-99. Letters received, chiefly by the Supervising Architect, 1843-1910 (4,250 ft.), with registers, 1857-1901. General correspondence and related records, 1910-39 (6,452 ft.). Correspondence and related records concerning operation and maintenance of federal buildings outside the District of Columbia, 1933-45. General correspondence of the Administrative Office, Section of Space Control, Procurement Division, 1935-39.

Top of Page

121.2.2 Records concerning land acquisitions and sales by the
United States

Textual Records: Warranty deeds to land acquired, 1801-78, and conveyed, 1830-1927. Warranty deeds and accompanying papers for land acquired, 1808-1925. Register of lands, 1830-59. Letters sent by the solicitor about lands, 1842-45. Letters and memorandums sent by the Section of Space Control about the disposal of government land, 1936-37. Closed land disposal case files, 1885-1939. Case files of lawsuits brought by the United States to acquire land in payment for debts, 1821-1911. Letters received by the solicitor from attorneys and special agents, 1855-66. Correspondence, 1845-87; warranty deeds to land conveyed, 1852-1902; and abatement case records, 1878-88, relating to government purchase and sale of land at Harpers Ferry, WV. Records relating to an inventory of federal real estate, including correspondence of the Section of Space Control, Procurement Division; a departmental and agency file on federally owned property; and returned property survey questionnaires, 1929-39. Correspondence and related material about land in the District of Columbia, 1930-39, and miscellaneous documents concerning sites ("Site Registers"), ca. 1845-1903.

Top of Page

121.2.3 Miscellaneous and fiscal records

Textual Records: Registers of bonds to contractors, 1889-97, and to construction superintendents, 1889-94. Construction contracts, 1854-60. Contract docket, 1882-92. Inspection file of construction and inspection engineers, 1935-40. Appropriation account ledgers and daybooks, 1816-1906. Ledger relating to construction, alteration, and repair of hospital facilities, 1921-22. Accounting ledgers and journals concerning the construction of the Treasury Extension Building, 1855-71. Appointment book of the Office of the Supervising Architect, 1900-2. Property record for furniture and fixtures in public buildings, 1896-1906. James Stewart and Company's claims file, 1937. Office file of the Procurement Division technical officer concerning construction and administration, 1923-35. Construction specifications file, n.d.

Top of Page

121.2.4 Treasury records concerning federal art activities

Textual Records: Central files of the Advisory Committee to the Treasury on Fine Arts and the Public Works of Art Project, 1933- 34; final reports, 1933-36; correspondence of the Assistant Technical Director, 1934-35; and card lists of paintings and sculptures executed under the project, 1934. General administrative and reference file of the Treasury Relief Art Project, 1935-37; central office correspondence with field offices, state supervisors, and others, 1935-39; and (in New York) correspondence of the New York City supervisor with the Washington office, 1935-38, and correspondence of the Region 2 office with artists, 1933-34, retained as a sample of regional correspondence.

Photographs: Works completed under the Treasury Relief Art Project, 1935-39 (TR, 2,000 images). See also 121.8.

Top of Page

121.2.5 Records concerning contractors' claims against the
Federal Government

Textual Records: War claims case files; summary card file; and reference file, including correspondence and memorandums, 1919- 26.

Top of Page

121.3 Records of the Section of Fine Arts, Public Buildings
Administration
1933-43

History: PBA's Section of Fine Arts inherited records and functions of the Treasury Department's Section of Fine Arts and its predecessor Section of Painting and Sculpture, established, 1934, to coordinate the provision of murals and sculptures to newly constructed federal office buildings. Section of Fine Arts abolished, with PBA, 1949. See 121.1.

Textual Records: Correspondence of section heads and embellishment case files, 1934-43. Correspondence with artists ("Artists' Letters"), 1939-42. Annual and miscellaneous reports, and letters received and other records concerning completed murals and sculpture and their artists, 1935-42. Bulletins of the Section of Painting and Sculpture, 1935-41. Biographical data on artists, 1938. Records concerning exhibitions, 1939-42; the decorating of New York World's Fair buildings, 1937-41; National Art Week, 1940-41; and national defense and war art projects, 1941-42. Correspondence with and about artists in Civilian Conservation Corps camps, 1934-37.

Photographs: Works completed under the Public Works of Art Project, 1933-34 (PWAP, PWD, 4,400 images). Artworks commissioned by the Section of Fine Arts, 1934-43 (CMS, 2,100 images; PS, 9,600 images; GA, 13,000 images). Sketches of artworks submitted to various competitions, including the "48 States Competition," 1934-43 (MS, 13,000; FES, 1,211 images). See also 121.8.

Top of Page

121.4 Records of the Public Buildings Service (GSA) and its
Predecessors
1838-1993

Top of Page

121.4.1 Records concerning land acquisitions and sales by the
United States

Textual Records: Correspondence; interfiled photographs, plats, and maps; and other title transfer records pertaining to the disposal of federal surplus property, 1935-61. Title papers and site registers, including warranty deeds, abstracts and certificates of title, site proposals, and related title papers, 1838-1971 (809 ft.). Real property disposal case files, 1949-58, of PBS (GSA) Region 4 for AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, and TN. Real property disposal case files and other records of the War Assets Administration, 1946-51, and PBS (GSA) Region 9, 1947-59, including CA, AZ, NV, and HI (in San Francisco). Real property project files, 1946-60, and summaries of surplus property, 1950-56, of PBS (GSA) Region 6 for IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, and SD (in Kansas City). Field office records of PBS (GSA) Region I, 1946-76, covering CT, MA, NH, RI, VT, and ME (in Boston).

Top of Page

121.4.2 Records relating to improvements of Presidential homes

Textual Records: Records, including interfiled photographs and drawings, documenting improvements to properties occupied by President Richard M. Nixon and members of his family; and copies of a report summarizing expenditures made by the GSA for the protection of President Nixon and his family, 1968-74. Records compiled in connection with investigations of the management of the homes of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Harry S. Truman; Vice Presidents Spiro T. Agnew and Hubert H. Humphrey; and Mrs. John F. Kennedy, 1964-73. Records relating to the renovation of the Executive Mansion, 1948-53.

Top of Page

121.4.3 Records relating to federal construction activities

Textual Records: Specifications for the construction of the U.S. Post Office and Court Building, 7th and Mission Street, San Francisco, CA, 1898-1901 (in San Francisco). Records relating to the construction of Federal offices throughout PBS Region I, 1950-78 (in Boston); Region 4, 1843-1979 (in Atlanta); and Region 6, 1913-93, covering IA, KS, MO, and NE (in Kansas City).

Architectural and Engineering Plans (in San Francisco): Drawings for original construction, earthquake damage repair, and 1934 remodeling of the U.S. Post Office and Court Building, San Francisco, CA, including elevations, floor plans, and details, 1898-1908, 1934 (276 items, in San Francisco). Plans of the U.S. Branch Mint, 5th and Mission Street, San Francisco, CA, 1867- 1950, including electrical, floor, plumbing, and elevator plans (36 items, in San Francisco). Plans and drawings of Boston Harbor defense installations, 1932-46 (404 items, in Boston). See also 121.6.

Photographs: Construction of the U.S. Post Office and Court Building, San Francisco, CA, including views of the foundation, exterior, and interior, 1901-3; and construction of the annex and interior remodeling, 1933-41 (156 images, in San Francisco). Construction progress and completion on federal building projects, Construction Management Division, PBS Region 8 (CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY), 1915-70 (6,300 images, in Denver). See also 121.8.

Top of Page

121.5 Records of Collaborating Boards and Committees
1921-41

Top of Page

121.5.1 Records of the Board of Consultants on Hospitalization

History: Established, 1921, to advise the Secretary of the Treasury on the location and expansion of hospital facilities for World War I veterans.

Textual Records: Correspondence, reference material, and statistical data accumulated during surveys and studies, 1921-23. Correspondence concerning prospective purchases and donations of land and buildings, 1921-22. Records about proposed sites and buildings, 1921-27.

Top of Page

121.5.2 Records of the Advisory Committee for the National
Archives Building

History: Appointed, 1930, to advise and assist the Supervising Architect in determining the size and character of the proposed archives building.

Textual Records: Files of the chairman, including sketches, drawings, notes, and surveys, 1929-41. Records of the Subcommittee on Documents concerning a survey of federal agency records, 1930.

Top of Page

121.6 Cartographic Records (General)
1833-1974

Architectural and Engineering Plans: Consolidated files relating to the design, construction, repair, and alteration of federal buildings in the United States, including post offices, courthouses, customhouses, and marine hospitals that were sold, traded, or demolished before 1925; major federal office buildings in Washington, DC; and federal buildings at expositions, and consisting of presentation drawings, site plans, elevations, floor plans, and utility plans, in the form of original manuscripts, tracings, blueprints, and lithographic prints, 1833- 1974 (31,000 items).

See Architectural and Engineering Plans under 121.4.3.

Top of Page

121.7 Motion Pictures (General)
1940-43

President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicating the Washington National Airport, 1940 (1 reel). Workers clearing the site for and constructing the Pentagon, 1940-43 (1 reel).

Top of Page

121.8 Still Pictures (General)
1855-1967

Photographs: Floor plans, sketches, construction, and alterations of federal buildings; and government employees at work, 1855-1967 (BA-BF, 25,053 images; BCP, 19,500 images; BS, 13,000 images; C, 8,000 images). Activities of the PBS, 1943-51 (PB, 1,500 images). President Rutherford B. Hayes and others, 1877 (RBH, 11 images). Family of President Grover Cleveland and others, 1895-1903 (BAC, 16 images). Construction of the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, 1916-19 (LM, 44 images); Veterans Administration hospitals, 1922-29 (VA, 1,500 images); and public facilities, 1942-46 (SHR, 4,000 images). Building sites, 1930-39 (SB, 700 images). Artworks used in exhibits, 1942-46 (WTE, 400 images; WDAE, 109 images; WSP, 160 images; WRC, 18 images). Public buildings, 1891-1909 (EX, 500 images); 1914 (CJT, 64 images); 1931 (MBW, 45 images). Repair of Treasury Building, in albums, 1855-67, 1909 (TB, 130 images); and interior and exterior views of Treasury Building, Philadelphia Mint, and New York Subtreasury, in albums, 1910 (RT, 130 images). Paintings of Alaska fur seal industry, 1872-90 (HE, 45 images).

Lantern Slides: Buildings and artwork, 1927-36 (LSB, 261 images); 1933-43 (LSA, 396 images).

See Photographs under 121.2.4, 121.3, and 121.4.3.


Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States. Compiled by Robert B. Matchette et al. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995.
3 volumes, 2428 pages.

Ordering information

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1995.


Top of Page

Guide to Federal Records >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

.