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Accessing building plans at the City Archives

Last updated: 9/16/19
Step
1

Before you start your search

Please note:

The City Archives holds blueprints, architectural drawings, and building inspector's reports from 1879 to 1966.  No building plans, drawings, or reports for pre-1879 buildings exist in the Archives.

Some records may be missing or incomplete. This is especially true if you are searching for records that date before 1900.

Some street names and street numbers have changed. There may also be streets with the same name in different City neighborhoods. For example, "Washington Street" is used in many different neighborhoods.

Some Boston neighborhoods used to be part of different towns and counties. If you building is pre-1874 and was originally built in a different county, you may be able to find deeds, plot plans, or other records of your building at that county's Registry of Deeds:

Step
2

Find the bin number for your building plans

Our archivists need the bin number, also called the file number, to find your building plans. You can find the bin number on the building permits. The bin number is usually one letter, followed by one to three digits.

The easiest way to find your bin number is to call the Inspectional Services at 617-635-5300, ext. 1301. Their hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. Let the staff know that you are looking for blueprints at the City Archives. Give them the address you're looking for, and they'll be able to find the bin number for you.

Searching for the bin number online

You can also find building permits online in the Inspectional Services Department's database.  To narrow the search, use the right drop down arrow in the "Document Type" line and select "Long Form Permit." The bin number is usually found on the cover or flipside of the permit which, in the database, follows the permit. The cover will appear sideways. Rotate it and look for a bin number in the lower left corner (one letter and one to three digits — for example, P232 or R67.)

Bin numbers are often in the "File number" field of the permit. See the example below:

Building permit showing bin number circled in red

On some permits, the bin number is not obvious. If you don't see the bin number at first, look at the entire permit for the bin number. Remember that it is usually a letter, followed by one to three digits. In the example below, you can see a bin number written on the top of a permit in pencil.

Building permit showing bin number circled in red
Step
3

Complete a request form

After you find your bin number, please complete an online request form:

Request a Building Inspector's report or Building Plan/Blueprint

Our archivists will search for the plans and notify you of the search results within five to seven days. We may find floor plans, plot plans, or only a building inspector's report with information about the additions, repairs, or renovations that have been done to the property.

Please keep in mind:
  • Building Inspector's reports date from 1879-1902, but there are some gaps. The reports are in bound in volumes, and organized by year.  The information is similar to the information in building permits. But, the reports give information about the building as it was built and not as it was proposed. 
  • Blueprints and plans date from 1902 to circa 1966. Some building plans are so fragile that we can't unroll them without destroying them. 
  • Our collection is incomplete. It's possible we may not find anything for the address you have requested.
Step
4

Make an appointment to visit the Archives

When we contact you with your search results, you can make an appointment to visit the Archives and view the documents. The City Archives is located at 201 Rivermoor Street. Appointments are available Monday through Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. 

You can bring your phone or camera to take photographs of the blueprints. Unfortunately, because the blueprints are fragile, we cannot have them professionally reproduced.

Contact:
Archives and Records Management
201 Rivermoor Street
West Roxbury, MA 02132
United States

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