City Archives
New Orleans Public Library

New Orleans (La.) Historic District Landmarks Commission
Surveys and Photographs
Date Range: 1974-2004
Size of Collection: 22 cubic feet of boxed records, ca.50,000 slides and ca. 400 prints
Terms of Access: Available to registered researchers by appointment only. The slides and prints in this collection have not yet been digitized. Discuss access with one of the archivists.


Go directly to the Inventory of Surveys and Photographs

Historical Note

In July, 1975, the state legislature passed Act 804, authorizing municipalities, parishes, incorporated towns, etc., to establish historic preservation districts and to create preservation district commissions "for the purpose of preserving buildings, sites, structures, monuments and areas of historic interest within their respective borders with the power to enact rules, regulations and measures for the protection of the same. . . . " Several acts passed earlier in the 1970s had empowered the creation of such preservation districts but had not given commissions the authority to designate landmarks. In New Orleans, the Historic District Landmarks Commission (HDCL) was first established by ordinance 5643 (MCS), passed on February 20, 1975. But it was not until after the passage of the strengthened State Act 804 and the passage on June 24, 1976, of ordinance 5992 (MCS) that the commission was able to begin functioning fully. Two years later, the Central Business District Historic District Landmarks Commission was created by ordinance 6699 (MCS). Links to the enabling legislation for both Commissions, establishing their legal framework, and the composition, term limits, definitions, powers, processes and procedures for both, can be found HERE.

The HDLC's purpose is to “regulate, preserve, and protect historic districts and landmarks within the City of New Orleans," but outside of the Vieux Carre, which is regulated by the Vieux Carre Commission. The Central Business District Historic Landmarks Commission (CBDHDLC), which shares office space and staff with the HDLC, performs the same duties as the HDLC, but for the area bounded by the Mississippi River, the down river right of way of the Pontchartrain Expressway, the center line of Claiborne Avenue and the center line of Iberville Street."

The enabling legislation for each Commission designated that "no private building, structure, or edifice, including fences, boundary walls, signs and paving shall be erected, altered, restored, moved, or demolished within any district until after an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness as to exterior architectural features has been submitted to and approved by the Commission." The legislation also stipulated that a Certificate of Appropriateness be issued for the excavation or moving of earth, rocks or subsoil from any historical or archaeologically important earthworks within a historic district.

The Commissions are also authorized to nominate and designate individual structures or sites of particular historic, architectural or cultural significance as landmarks. (A current list of designated or nominated landmarks can be found HERE.)

Gradually, beginning in 1976, various sections of the city were designated as historic districts subject to the HDLC's governance. (A listing of the currently designated historic districts and maps of each can be found HERE.) As each area was considered for designation, HDLC staff conducted surveys of the existing structures. Surveys were also done for areas that were under consideration as historic districts, but not so designated (for example, a survey exists for the Carrollton neighborhood, though it has not been designated as a historic district).

Scope and Arrangement

The processed records have been physically arranged according to the following series (for additional detail on each series, click on the series name):

  • Surveys
    Gradually, beginning in 1976, various sections of the city were designated as historic districts subject to the HDLC's governance. (A listing of the currently designated historic districts and maps of each can be found HERE.) As each area was considered for designation, HDLC staff conducted surveys of the existing structures. Surveys were also done for areas that were under consideration as historic districts, but not so designated (for example, a survey exists for the Carrollton neighborhood, though it has not been designated as a historic district). Surveys for specific projects (e.g. Historic Standing Structures Survey) are included as well.

  • Survey Slides
    Survey slides taken in connection with new surveys done ca. 1995 for a number of already designated districts

  • Staff Slides
    Staff slides, taken by HDLC staff for internal or Commission use

  • Prints
    An additonal series of miscellaneous photographic prints taken by staff for various purposes.

Researchers should note that the images in this collection were taken during the course of HDLC business for documentation purposes. The images were captured by employees, volunteers and students, not by professional photographers with the aim of capturing a structure in its best light. The images are representative of the structure at the time they were taken and may include obscuring cars, trees or people. They may be taken from an angle or may include more than one structure.

Two sets of additional materials were included in the HDLC transfer. The first is a collection of photographs of structures taken by the architecture firm Koch and Wilson prior to the formation of the HDLC. The second is a set of photographs from a visitor to the city taken in the early 1900s depicting street work. These materials have not yet been processed.

Detailed Inventory of the Surveys and Photographs

An inventory of the surveys and photographs in each series is available at the link above. The inventory is sorted alphabetically by street name then street number (if given). In cases where the street name is not identified, the name of the building or the type of record has been used. The inventory is inclusive of all the series in the collection.


Back to NOPL Home

CB 10/2014