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Surveyors, Board of

[Record group 90]
Alternative/Former Names
Engineering, Surveys, and Zoning, Bureau of;
Surveys and Design, Bureau of

Agency Function
The Bureau of Surveys and Design makes studies of the general plans of the street system, prepares revisions, and maintains current land use maps, general street maps, small-scale plans of the general street system, and an up-to-date list of street names. It also furnishes technical assistance and advice on the city's physical development plan. The City Street Plan (usually called the City Plan) is administered by the Board of Surveyors, attached to the Bureau of Surveys and Design. The Board consists of the chief engineer and surveyor (who is president, by virtue of the charter and statute); the assistant chief engineer and surveyor; the surveyors and regulators of the survey districts; the secretary of the board (usually the city plans officer); and a recording secretary. The Board is required by state statute to hold public hearings on the confirmation and revision of detailed plans relating to the authorized street system, and it confirms or rejects all such plans or revisions. The Board also approves bridge, street railway, and railroad plans, and grade crossing elimination projects. The Bureau of Surveys and Design has custody of the City Street Plan. It files and indexes all city, Board of View, street railway, and railroad plot and survey plans, and the records of legal openings of all city streets.

The personnel of the survey districts determine the lines and grades for the City's street improvement projects. Their functions include establishing lines and grades for the erection of buildings, making property surveys, and conveyance plans of properties, making land subdivision plans, architects' plans, city plans, and plans for the condemnation of land in street openings and for other public improvements, preparing all plans for municipal street improvements, and determining special assessments against private property for municipal improvement. They also make almost all of the other property surveys in Philadelphia for private as well as public projects.

The Bureau of Surveys and Design designs and inspects bridges, retaining walls, culverts, overpasses, and underpasses of the street system. It coordinates its work with the public utilities and the transportation companies.

Administrative Subunits
1st Survey District
2nd Survey District
3rd Survey District
4th Survey District
5th Survey District
6th Survey District
7th Survey District
8th Survey District
9th Survey District
10th Survey District
11th Survey District
12th Survey District
13th Survey District
14th Survey District
15th Survey District
16th Survey District

Agency History
The City's earliest surveyors and regulators were provided for by an Act of February 28, 1710-11, which empowered the Corporation to appoint two citizens to regulate the setting of foundations and party walls and to act as fence viewers. An Act of 1769 officially extended their authority to the regulations of all streets, sewers and watercourses. In 1804 the surveyors were made direct appointees of the Mayor, but in 1839 Councils assumed that power. At the Consolidation of the City and County in 1854 the new City was divided into twelve survey districts the electors of each of which chose one surveyor who in turn formed a Board of Surveyors, choosing one of their members as Chief Engineer and Surveyor. In 1863 a Department of Surveys was organized officially although the Board continued to function at a policy-making level and their approval was required for all general plans of the City's sewers and bridges. In 1865 a Registry Bureau was established within the Department to maintain current detailed descriptions of the recorded transfers of all real property. The supervision of the construction of all sewers was transferred to Surveys from the Department of Highways in 1884. In pursuance of the Bullitt Bill the Department became, in 1887, the Bureau of Surveys of the Department of Public Works. A Bureau of Engineering was carved from it in 1924 and given charge of the design and construction of sewage facilities, bridges, and the abolishment of railroad grade crossings; in 1928 it was returned to Surveys, the merger resulting in a Bureau of Engineering and Surveys. In 1933 the Bureau was made that of Engineering, Surveys, and Zoning, its new function being the enforcement of the comprehensive zoning ordinance of that year. With the abolition of the Department of Public Works in 1952 the Board of Surveyors was transferred to the then-established Department of Streets as was the Bureau under the title of the Bureau of Surveys and Design; its zoning enforcement functions were given to the new Department of Licenses and Inspections. In 1957, the Registry Section was added to the Department of Records.

Archival Records
90.1 Annual Report (1886, 1892, 1895, 1897, 1898, 1900, 1902, 1903, 1908, 1909, 1911-1918, 1937, 1939-1941, 1943, 1944, 1948, 1952-1954, 1958 (supplement))

90.2 Annual Report of the Board of Surveyors, Departmental Board of; Department of Streets (1953)

90.3 Board of Surveyors. Minutes (1925-1926, 1929-1935)

90.4 Digest of Orders Issued by Director of Public Works and Chief Engineer and Surveyor (1888-1913)

90.5 Data Requests (1894-1895)

90.6 Draughts, City Blocks (ca. 1814)

90.8 Maps, City Survey Districts (1948-1962)

90.9 Maps, Philadelphia Area Airfields (1927, 1936)

90.11 Map, League Island Park (1938)

90.12 Plans, Perspectives, Benjamin Franklin Parkway (1889-1925)

90.13 Perspectives, Proposed Public Squares and Buildings (1914-1916)

90.14 Indexes, Plans and Surveys

90.15 Ledger, Legal Openings of Streets (ca. 1900)

90.16 Cross Sections, Street Beds (1899)

90.17 Cost Data, Openings of Tulip and Emerald Streets (updated)

90.18 "Exhibit of Sewers" (1867-1885)

90.19 Photographs, Blueprints, of Sewer Projects (1917-1932)

90.21 Specifications for Bridges (1871-1909)

90.22 "Estimates" of Work Done on the Fairmount (Spring Garden) Bridge (1871-1875)

90.23 Files of the Bureaus of Surveys, Engineering and Surveys, and Engineering, Surveys and Zoning (1901-1951)

90.24 Bureau of Surveys and Design. Project Files (1951-1969)

90.25 "Extracts From John Reed's Book and Measures of the Most Principal Streets, Squares, etc. Taken by the Regulators Since the Year 1782, Collected by Thomas Nevell" (ca. 1782)

90.26 Reports (1911, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1948)

90.27 Change in Street Names (1858, 1897)

90.28 Map of the City of Philadelphia (ca. 1784-1797)

90.29 Miscellaneous Maps (1952-1963)

90.30 Zoning and Use Permit Application Register (October 1933 - January 1952)

90.31 Register of Zoning Map Changes (November 1933 - January 1952)

90.32 Zoning Maps (1951)

90.33 Atlases of Foreign Cities (1889, 1902-1903)

Current Records

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Last updated on November 8, 2000