The first edition of this booklet was prepared in response to a demand for information on how to go about researching the history of a house. A good deal of this demand was prompted by a renewed interest in preservation brought about to a considerable degree by the Friends of the Cabildo series of books on New Orleans architecture. Additional demand came from students of architectural history at Tulane University. In fact, the immediate impetus for this guide was an open house program held at the Central Library in 1975. At this event the late F. Monroe Labouisse, Jr., architect and lecturer in the History of Louisiana Architecture at Tulane, spoke on "How to research the history of your house." In his address Mr. Labouisse outlined the general archival research procedure and also described some of the specific materials available in the Library's Louisiana Division. This event led the Division staff to look at its collections with renewed interest in how they might be used in researching house history. We soon discovered that we had in our care a far more valuable group of research materials than had previously been realized. In order to bring our newfound knowledge to the public in a readily available and easily accessible package, we decided to produce the first edition of this guide. With the cooperation of the Library's Serials, Binding and Duplication Division, we were able to bring it out in the early part of 1976.
Fortunately, the completion of that project did not mark the end of our learning about the considerable value of the Louisiana Division collections. Through working with new (and old) researchers, we learned more and more about the usefulness of our collections as well as the important collections available at other libraries and documentary repositories in New Orleans. Valuable suggestions were offered by experienced researchers, including Roulhac Toledano, Sally Reeves, John Ferguson, Karen Wade, Samuel Wilson, Jr., Robbie Cangelosi, and Hilary Irvin. These suggestions have been incorporated into this revised edition with the considerable gratitude of the author, who, of course, is solely responsible for any inaccuracies that remain.
Since 1976 New Orleans has seen a tremendous increase in the renovation and restoration of older commercial structures. This revised guide therefore attempts to identify sources of value in researching all buildings in New Orleans, commercial as well as residential. Indeed, local documentation for commercial (and public) buildings is often much more complete than that for residences.
There are three practical reasons for researching the origins of a building:
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