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(Department of Public Works)

Series Description

Many of the functions of the modern department of public works can be traced back to the early years of Baltimore's municipal government. Original responsibility for street extension and repair, sanitation, and water supply, for example, was vested in the Baltimore Town Commissioners formed in 1729. With the explosive growth of the city after the Revolutionary War came attempts to improve public services. A board of special commissioners was created in 1782 specifically to improve the condition of the streets. But, by the mid-1790s it was apparent that further efforts were required. When the city was granted incorporated status by the Maryland General Assembly in 1796, one of the first measures of the new government was the creation of the city commissioners. This office was charged with general responsibility for street paving, repair, and extension; authority also was granted over sewers, bridges, and sanitation.

As Baltimore continued to grow in the nineteenth century, separate agencies were created to deal with areas such as street cleaning, harbor improvements, building inspection, and water supply. Responsibilities overlapped between these agencies and the city commissioners. The overall efficiency of these related functions was, by the waning years of the century, clearly inhibited by the lack of a central administration.

In an effort to streamline and improve the efficiency of the entire municipal government, the 1898 city charter combined all city agencies into nine functional departments. One of these was a department of public improvements which assumed the powers of the city commissioners and of all other agencies previously involved in public construction or maintenance. Sub-agencies of the new department were the city engineer, inspector of buildings, water board, and the harbor board. Another reorganization of the municipal government led to the creation of a department of public works in 1925. Responsibilities of this body extended over water supply, streets, mechanical-electrical services, street cleaning, surveys, public buildings, the harbor, transportation, and sewers.

The present administrative structure of this department was formed in 1968 through a charter amendment. Five functional bureaus were established including engineering, consumer services, utility operations, inspection, and general services.

For additional information see Laws of Maryland, 1782, ch. 39; ord. 14 (1797); Baltimore City Charter of 1898, sect. 84; ord. 450 (1925); ord. 1091 (1967); Jacob H. Hollander, The Financial History of Baltimore (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1899); and Frederick Philip Stieff, comp., The Government of a Great American City (Baltimore: H.G. Roebuck and Son, 1935).

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DateSeries NameDescriptionLinksSchedule NoMSA Citation
  Details1924-1966Director's CorrespondenceAdministrative files concerning varied activities of the department. Subjects include tabulation of bids; awarding of contracts; construction of streets, sewers, and public buildings; bills charged to the city; personnel; reorganization of departmental structure and operation; budget requests; urban planning and renewal; comments on proposed ordinances and resolutions; and federal and state grants.  BRG47-1
  Details1967-1974Newspaper Clipping FilesClippings from the morning, evening, and Sunday Sun, the News American, and the Afro-American relating for the most part to department of public works activities and concerns. The files were originally compiled and maintained by the director's office. Subjects include sewer construction, pollution control, water shortages, city council actions, snow removal, trash collection, and the annual city fair.  BRG47-2
  Details1900-1922City Engineer's Records

Correspondence, maps, drawings, plats, building regulations, title searches of lots considered for layout of streets, and leases of buildings and property for use as schools. Major topics covered in the correspondence include building equipment and supplies used by the city, construction and repair projects, and requests for publications. The drawings, maps, and plats depict numerous areas of the city and projects in which the engineer was involved, such as the opening and closing of streets, Patterson Park Conservatory, bookcases for the city library, sewers and water lines, placement of railroad tracks, and improvements to the Old Marine Hospital and to the city's water supply.

All maps, drawings, and plats have been removed and are stored in oversize drawers.

The position of city engineer was created by the 1898 charter as part of the department of public improvement. The engineer assumed the duties of the city commissioner and was empowered with the control and supervision of construction, paving, and curbing of the city's streets, highways, lanes, and alleys and the construction of sewers. This sub-department and the department of public improvements were abolished in 1925 with the creation of the present department of public works. 

One non-indexed plat for the year 1900 (Ostend to Eutaw to West to Howard Streets) has been added to the end of this series.

  Details1920Inspector of Buildings, Correspondence Received

Letters received from the secretary of the board of fire commissioners conveying the fire department's opinion concerning ordinances proposed for the addition to or modification of various private buildings.

These documents exemplify the inspector's dual role as part of the department of public improvements and public safety, created by the 1893 city charter. The inspector of buildings was responsible for the supervision of construction and repair of all buildings built by the city, the inspection of buildings, and the enforcement of building regulations and ordinances. His diverse powers, duties, and obligations were transferred in 1925 to the newly-created bureau of buildings of the department of public works.

  Details1974-1977Division of Sanitation, CorrespondenceCorrespondence between Division of Sanitation and other municipal agencies as well as citizens and civic groups. Major topics covered in the correspondence include clean-up campaigns, requests for work from private citizens, and notices concerning both internal and public affairs.  BRG47-5
  Details1947-1957Bureau of Building Construction, Project Files

Files maintained by the bureau for each construction, alteration, or addition project it supervised. Documentation retained for each project includes correspondence, certification of contract advertisement, preliminary authority to contract, on-the-job injury reports, contractors' estimates, work orders, estimates, certificates of payment, certified mail receipts, permits, affadavits, and other miscellaneous documentation relating to the individual projects.

A list of the contents of each reel is available.

  Details1879-1940Bureau of Highways, Bridge Division, Drawings of Bridges and Viaducts

Final construction drawings for numerous bridges, viaducts, culverts, and dumping platforms maintained by the division. Some related documentation such as test borings, bid tabulations, and material ratings appear infrequently.

Available on microfilm only (BCA 1420-1428).

Calvert St. Bridge Oversize Drawer 20 (see container list)

  Details1936-1964Bureau of Highways, Bridge Contracts Files

These project files contain correspondence, tabulations of bids, authorizations to contract, certifications of advertisement, test borings and results of tests on materials slated for use, certificates of completion, and other documentation related to the execution of contracts for various city bridges and viaducts. The actual contracts appear in RG 35 S1.

These records are available on microfilm only (BCA 1592-1594).

  Details1930-1932Bureau of Highways, Alley Assessments

Listings of the names, address, footage, and assessment amounts of each property owner in their particular alley of residence. In addition, the assessment paving plats of each individual alley and detailed statement of each alley's tax assessment rate are provided.

A separate listing of the alleys included is available. Note that Alley #4978 appears on this listing after Alley #4900-X as it does on the microfilm itself.

Records are available on microfilm only (BCA 1595).

  Details1940-1950Bureau of Mechanical-Electrical Services, Conduit Length Tracings

Street maps showing conduit duct lengths and locations. Some maps also show land usage.

Records are available on microfilm only (BCA 1667-1668).

  Details1895-1951Bureau of Sewers, Engineering Drawings

Street maps, designs, and contract specifications for drains, pipes, and other systems. Also included are proposals for new sewers and additions to sewers. Some maps show property ownership, businesses, and structures.

Records are available on microfilm only (BCA 1669-1686).

  Details1948-1957Bureau of Sewers, Record Plats

Maps showing the location of sewer lines as well as some property ownership and use. Specific locations can be found by the use of "coordinate" maps, available in this series, and Series 23, House Connection Cards.

Records are available on microfilm only (BCA 1687-1695).

  Details1906-1964Bureau of Sewers, Tracings

Assorted maps and drawings. Included are: maps showing drainage and proposals for sewers and storm drains, engineering drawings; and maps of public and private sewers. Some maps also show property ownership and use.

Records available on microfilm only (BCA 1696-1708).

  Details1907-1942Bureau of Sewers, Drains

Record cards for storm drains placed in the City. Included are: the address; name of contractor; date of construction; cost; and assorted technical information for each drain. Maps showing the locations are also included.

Records available on microfilm only (BCA 1709-1714).

  Details1916-1963Bureau of Water Supply, Tracings

Maps and plats documenting water services. Included are maps showing: water sources for the City; existing and proposed water mains and service; sewers and drains; abandoned water mains; gas mains; fire service; and some property ownership and use. Also included are drawings of vehicles and pump stations. Maps extend to areas in Baltimore County as well.

Records available on microfilm only (BCA 1715-1743).

  Details1948-1952Bureau of Water Supply, Plats of Water Mains, Services and Hydrants

Plats showing locations of water services. Some maps also show structures and property ownership. Includes areas in Baltimore County as well as Baltimore City.

Records are available on microfilm only (BCA 1744-1749).

  Details1894-1942Bureau of Surveys, 40 Foot Scale Sheets

Maps showing streets, structures, and property ownership.

Records are available on microfilm only (BCA 1750-1751).

  Details1894-1922Bureau of Surveys, Topographical Maps of Baltimore

Maps of the City showing streets, land use, structures, and land ownership.

Records available on microfilm only (BCA 1752).

  Details1904-1930Old Fireline Accounts

These accounts were maintained by the Bureau of Water and Waste Water, Metered Accounts Application Section. They are inspection cards (5 1/2 X 8 1/2) for businesses and institutions to determine types of fire protection.

In addition to information on types of sprinkler systems and other sources of fire protection, they provide the name of property owner and occupant. The back of each card has a diagram showing street location/ as well as/ location of the fire line.

Separate indices by property owners and occupants are available at the Baltimore City Archives's website here: Old Fireline Accounts Index.

  Details1905-1962Bureau of Water Supply, ScrapbooksNewspaper clippings compiled and maintained by. the Bureau of Water Supply relating to the activities and concerns of the Bureau. Subjects include watershed projects, water control, costs, City Council and Board of Estimates Actions, plans, pollution control.  BRG47-20
  Details1925-1928Bureau of Water Supply, Index to PermitsIndex to permits include: the permit number, name of company or person requesting the permit, street number, street location, and what the applicant is applying for. The application is for the installation of a meter, an increase in supply, changing of meters, transferring meters, new supply or fire supply.  BRG47-21
  Details1794-1927Grade Establishment Books

Records of street grade establishments by the City Engineer, the City Surveyor, and the Chief Engineer. Included are the name of the street and measurements.

Each volume has a street name index. The Lot and Grade Establishment Index provides access to the earliest volumes (up to 1904). There is a container list available.

  Details1948-1952Bureau of Sewers, House Connection CardsCards recording the connection of dwellings with the municipal sewerage system. Information includes the block number, street location, location of the pipe, drawing number, and the record plat number. The record plat number refers to the drawings in Series 12, Bureau of Sewers, Record Plats.  BRG47-23
  Details1952Bureau of Surveys, Plat ListingsA listing of the maps held by the Bureau of Surveys as of December, 1952. Each card provides a description of the maps in a given drawer, including the number, date, creator, and name.  BRG47-24
  Details1906-1958Bureau of Sewers, Works Division - Engineering Drawings

Detailed engineering drawings for various projects. There is an index at the beginning of the series.

The records are available on microfilm only (BCA 5063-5066).

  Details Street FilesFiles are arranged alphabetically by street.  BRG47-26
  Details1907-1908Bureau of Water and Wastewater, City of Baltimore Tin PlatsMaps mounted on tin plats showing a schematic view of the city, including road and place names, road rights of way and city boundary lines. Shows some system drainage areas in color.  BRG47-28
  Details1918-1955Bureau of Water and Wastewater, City of Baltimore Blue Line PlatsMaps of sanitary sewer and storm drain systems with contract numbers, which were intended to be used as system maps. The maps also include road names with rights of way, lots with lot numbers and some owner names, and some property lines. Some maps cover areas in Baltimore County as well as Baltimore City  BRG47-29
  Details1890-1899Bureau of Water and Wastewater, City of Baltimore Topographical SurveysMaps of topographical information, reproduced in color, which include existing contours at five foot intervals, landowner and tract names, existing physical features, streets, railroads and place names. Some maps have also been used to calculate drainage areas (in colored pencil). A circular stamp on the lower margin signifies the utility type.   BRG47-30
  Details Bureau of Water and Wastewater, City of Baltimore Various MapsMaps of various sizes and useage, including Sewer Maps with plan views, section views and profiles; blue line paper maps showing storm water systems and elevations in Baltimore  BRG47-31
  Details Bureau of Water and Wastewater, City of Baltimore Linen Heavy Bond MapsMaps of contact drawings of sewer and storm drain systems (with street names) on linen backed by heavy bond. Includes: maps of the City of Baltimore from the Bureau of Surveys (Bureau of Plans & Surveys), some of which also contain symbols keys; BRG47-32
  Details Bureau of Water and Wastewater, City of Baltimore Linen Sewer & Storm Drain MapsMaps of sewer and storm drain systems with street names on linen sheets; Includes: A set of 8 (out of 9) linen maps, a set of linen sewer maps pinned together; linen topographical maps;   BRG47-33
  Details1922Bureau of Water and Wastewater, City of Baltimore Preliminary Topographical SurveysMaps of topographical information, printed in blue ink on linen sheets, of which include existing contours, some landowner and tract names, along with some existing physical features, streets, railroads and place names. Some maps have been used to calculate drainage areas and potential drainage areas.   BRG47-34
  Details Bureau of Water and Wastewater, City of Baltimore Rolled MapsMaps various sizes and usage, including road maps of Baltimore and Baltimore County from the Department of Transportation and State Highway Administration, metropolitan area maps of Baltimore, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County, and sewer maps of Baltimore and Baltimore County. Some of these maps are part fo the General Master Plan for the City of Baltimore (Barcode is for the entire bin)  BRG47-35
  Details Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Wastewater Engineering), House Connection Field BooksHouse Connection Field Books  2010BRG47-36
  Details1905-1915Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Wastewater Engineering), Private Drain & Test Pit BooksPrivate Drain & Test Pit Books 2009BRG47-37
  Details1906-1922Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Wastewater Engineering), Utility As Built Survey Field Books Contracts 1 - 72Utility As Built Survey Field Books Contracts 1 - 72 1991BRG47-38
  Details1926-1927Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Wastewater Engineering), Aerial Photographic Map Atlas of Baltimore and Baltimore CountyAerial Photographic Map of Baltimore and Metropolitan District of Baltimore County, Made by the Chesapeake Aircraft Co. of Baltimore; Scale: 400' = 1 inch, Area: 210 sq. miles, Period of Flying: October 19, 1926 - February 24, 1927 1993BRG47-39
  Details Bureau of Water Supply Street MapStreet Maps of Baltimore City-Howard County with reference grids  BRG47-40
  Details1870-1962Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Wastewater Engineering), Sewer Commission ReportsVarious: Baltimore City Code/ Building Code/ Charter and Local Law/ City Council; Various: Contract Specs./Jones Falls Tunnel 2008BRG47-41
  Details1969-1994Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Wastewater Engineering), Plan ReportsVarious planning reports  BRG47-42
  Details Water Supplied through the Water System of Baltimore CityWater Supply History (Ron Parks)  BRG47-43
  Details Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Wastewater Engineering), Topographical and Sewer Maps received 2014Topographical and Sewer Maps  BRG47-44
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