City Archives
New Orleans Public Library

New Orleans (La.) Division of Public Works
     Records, 1912-1929
     45 v. and 4.5 cu. ft.

A subdivision of the Department of Public Property, it continued the work of the earlier Department of Public Works. It was responsible for maintenance city streets (both repairs and cleaning) and bridges, cleaning of public markets, and disposal of garbage. With the realignment of the responsibilities of the Department of Public Property in 1948 (effective in 1950), the duties of the Division of Public Works were transferred to several of the newly created departments.

The records include both incoming and outgoing correspondence, monthly reports, morning reports, incinerator reports, time books, and receipts for notices delivered to property owners.

Incoming letters (KDW510 1912-1922; 1927-1929--3 cu. ft.) are mostly complaints relative to non-collection of garbage, dangerous conditions of streets, uncut weeds, clogged gutters, and buildings in need of repair. There are scattered letters dealing with the construction or moving of buildings as well as several concerning personnel matters. At least some of the latter address matters of political patronage. These documents were rather heavily weeded to remove materials even more routine than the ones retained. Arrangement is chronological, with the bulk of the file between March, 1912 and December, 1922.

Outgoing letters are recorded as letterpress copies in letter books. There are separate series of books for different types of correspondence as follows:

Letters to the Commission Council and other city officials (KDW511c 1912-1920; 9 v.)--mostly routine, including transmittals, responses to complaints, etc., but also including more detailed reports [e.g., a 25-page report on the condition of streets through which railroads ran is dated February 8, 1913]. Among other topics represented are personnel matters and accidents involving private citizens;

Letters relative to contracts (KDW511con 1912-1920; 3 v.)--dealing with the public bid process as well as with the performance of city contractors;

Letters, miscellaneous (KDW511m 1912-1919; 6 v.)--most very routine (responses to complaints, relative to office supplies, copies of notices sent for correction of property deficiencies, etc.). There are a few references to the moving of individual buildings. Perhaps most interesting are responses to inquiries from other cities seeking information on local governmental practice;

Letters relative to railroads (KDW511r 1912-1920; 5 v.)--includes both railroads and street railways. Mostly concerned with damage to public property by railroad construction and/or operations. Some deal with the Public Belt Railroad's role in garbage disposal along the riverfront;

Letters relative to the Sewerage and Water Board (KDW511s 1912-1920; 2 v.)--dealing mostly with broken hydrants, leaking pipes, clogged drains, and damage caused to streets and sidewalks by Water Board workers;

Letters and orders of the General Superintendent (KDW5111u 1912-1920; 4 v.)--include detailed monthly reports. Some letters deal with personnel matters.

Except for the last-named series, the letter books for the most part contain letters signed by the Deputy Commissioner for Public Works and by the Commissioner of Public Property. Most of the volumes are indexed by name of correspondent.

The morning reports of work done (KDW410 1916-1920; 3 v.) are daily statistical reports on bridge repairs and waste disposal. The bridge reports document the number of bridges built/repaired, amounts of lumber, nails, and other materials used, the number of men employed, and a general geographical note of the areas worked each day. The waste disposal reports include the number of carts in service, number of loads transported, number of men employed, and number of blocks of gutters and streets cleaned/flushed.

The incinerator reports (KDW205 1917-1920; 4 v.) are log books of each day's routine activities, i.e., time fire started, meter readings, amount of garbage received, time last load dumped, etc. Also included are brief (one or two words) notations of the day's weather. On facing pages there are records of the amount of garbage transported by each of the city's garbage wagons and the time that each load was delivered to the incinerator.

The time books (KDW483 1913-1920; 8 v.) record the names and positions of employees within the Division, along with the number of hours worked daily and monthly salaries. These data are recorded on separate sheets for each month. Some of the sheets are for individual wards or groups of wards, while others are city-wide. On each sheet the employees are grouped together by work crew or unit.

The monthly reports (KDW204 1912-1921 & 1926; .5 cu. ft.) are for the most part narrative with descriptions of activities in areas such as garbage collection, carpentry work, paving, bridge repairs, construction of plank roads, repairs to streets, and work by prison gangs. The 1926 reports actually are financial statements showing salaries and supplies used for the various work units within the Division. Reports for some months are missing.

The single book of receipt stubs from sidewalk notices (KDW475 1916-1919) records the name of owners/agents, location of sidewalk, measurement of sidewalk needing work, and nature of the work required. On the reverse of each receipt is a record that the notice was served, including the name of the individual served.

Additional information on the activities of the Division, though incomplete, can be found in the correspondence/subject files of the Commissioner of Public Property.


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