Philadelphia Information Locator Service
Archival Record Series

Department of Public Safety
Bureau of Building Inspection

[Record Group 83-4]

83-4.1 Annual Reports
4 volumes, index
For other Annual reports between 1858-1938, see Office of the Mayor, Annual Reports
Location: City Archives, 3101 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
83-4.2 Yearly Record of Building Permits, Operations, and Estimated Costs
2 volumes, no index
Monthly entries for each year list total numbers of building permits issued, total numbers of building operations, and estimated costs for one-, two-, three-and four or more story dwellings, frame dwellings, tenement houses, apartment houses, stables and carriage houses, factories, work shops, office buildings, stores, shops, warehouses, engine and boiler houses, churches and related buildings, schools, halls, municipal buildings, railroad stations, places of amusement, hotels, motels, hospitals, charitable institutions, club houses, bank buildings, additions to existing buildings, private and public garages, "miscellaneous buildings," fire escapes, power houses, signs, heaters (oil or coal); alterations, repairs, fireproofing; rooming houses, convents, museums, gymnasiums, dormitories, libraries, laundries, armories, bath houses, depots, round houses, market houses, welfare buildings, laboratories, recreation buildings, auditoriums, mausoleums, swimming pools, nursing homes, college buildings, viewing stands, funeral parlors, demolitions, duplex dwellings, automobile service stations, air conditioners.
For similar records 1952-1961 see Department of Licenses & Inspections, Yearly Record, Building Permits, Operations, and Estimated Costs.

Location: City Archives, 3101 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

83-4.3 "Central City High Buildings"
1 sheet, no index
Listing of buildings 48' or higher (apparently not complete) between Girard and Pine and Sixth and Twenty-fifth Streets; for each is entered its title, use, location, height, number of floors, number of street fronts occupied, its lot dimensions and area; dimensions of air space in court, side yard, rear yards; total area of air space and its percentage in relation to lot area, year built or remodelled.
Location: City Archives, 3101 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
83-4.4 Building Permit Applications
274 ,
Under the Act of 5 May 1855, the City of Philadelphia was required to have two (later expanded to three) building inspectors. This act required every person who was to erect, construct or alter a house or building to apply to the building inspectors for a permit. The Bureau of Building Inspectors, which came into existence in 1887, created a form with the following information:
Date of application, number of buildings, number of stories, building material, type of building, location, size of lot, size of building, estimated cost of the building, time of commencement, height of each story and thickness of the walls, name of the applicant, whether the applicant was the owner or the contractor, the applicant's address, and the charge for the permit.
Beginning in late 1894, two different application forms were used - a three-page form for the new construction and a one-page form for alterations and additions to existing buildings. Later, different forms were used for the construction of dwellings, for the construction of apartment buildings, and for other new construction.
Application Form "A", the form for alterations was entitled "Application for Permit for Repairs, Minor Alterations, Frame Buildings, Bay Windows, Heaters, Boiler and Engine Foundations, etc." and has the date of the application; location and ward of the city; use of building; a description of the proposed work; yard space; time of commencement; estimated cost; and the name and address of owner, architect (if applicable), contractor and applicant. By the 1910s, the permit was revised to request the use of the existing building and the use of the proposed addition and was later modified to allow this form to be used for the construction of one-story buildings.
Application Form "B", the form for new construction was entitled "Application for Erection of New Buildings." It required the applicant to fill in the date of the application; number of buildings to be erected; use of the building; location and ward of the city; size of lot; size of front and back buildings; number of stories in height; total height of building; height of each story; depth of foundation walls; type of soil upon which foundation would be laid; footings; thickness and materials of foundation walls; thickness of the upper walls; materials of which walls are constructed; composition of mortar; materials of front; type of roof; materials of cornices; size and location of bay windows, overhanging baths and frame shed, if applicable; materials of floor beams, girders and columns; size and distance between the centers of the joists, girders and columns; materials of roof rafters; rows of bridging to each tier of beams; distance of wooden members from all flues; type of furnace; estimated cost; yard space; whether any buildings would be demolished before new construction would start, and the time of commencement of the work. The names and addresses of the owner, architect (if applicable), contractor and applicant were required. By the early 1910s, different variations of the form were used for different types of buildings, i.e. "Application for Permit for Erection of Dwellings."
Application Form "C", which came into use during the 1920s, was entitled "Application for Erection of Tenement, Apartment or Flat Houses not Exceeding Four Stories in Height," and was similar to Application Form "B". In addition to the detailed information about the structure, it asked for the number of buildings to be erected, the number of families to each house, size in cubic feet of the smallest living space, whether all living rooms opened onto the street or an open space, size of window space in room having the minimum opening, number and size of halls on each floor, number and width of stairs, if the building had a fire escape and what type, whether the stairs would be lighted at night, and whether each tenement or suite would have its own bathroom.
Application Form"D", "Application for Permit for Erection of New Buildings (Other than Dwellings)" requested much of the same information as Application Forms "B" and "C". On all forms, the date of the permit approval with the name of the inspector was entered on the last page. Space was left at the top of each permit application for the inspector to fill in the class of building, materials, permit number, fee and plan number.
For permits, 1952-1966, see Department of Licenses & Inspections, Building Permit Applications.
Location: City Archives, 401 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19108

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Last updated on November 9, 2000