How do I locate original floor plans of historic (or just plain old) structures?

Hello Teeming Millions

I read the GQ stickies and tried the archives (SDMB and National)and library websites, but I’m either really dense or I’m just not finding what I need. I don’t know where to begin.

Does anyone know how to find floor plans of a specific house or building? Not styles of floor plans, I want the specific recorded floor plan of a particular structure. I enjoy architecture of older homes and there are quite a few nice gems in my town and when drive by them I always wonder: Hmm, wonder what that looks like on the inside? Is the kitchen big? Can they utilize the attic? Where are the stairs placed? Things like that. It’s an odd obsession, certianly, but I’m just very curious about layouts and the “flow” of older homes.

I work in a registered historical building. We’ve been told that it was once a market with a one-family home above, then a brothel, then apartments, now an office. I would like to see what the original floor plan looked like when the building was first built back in 1892.

Since it’s registered, I’ve been able to find the original builders name and his life story, but not any floor plans. As I said, I just don’t know where to begin looking. I assume they must be recorded and kept somewhere, yes? Some kind of government records office? Anyone work in that type of office or happen to know where something like that would be filed? Would it be available for public perusal?

The second part of this request is that I also lived in a really cool old home that was divided into 7 apts. It had large odd shaped rooms and strange corners and stairways that went nowhere. I’ve always been curious as to what the original layout of the home was. How would I go about looking up the original floor plans of a private residence like that? I have the current owner’s name, but I have no idea who built the property way back in 1920.

Could I just look up any random address? Say I also like the old grand home on the corner of 14th and Harvard in my neighborhood. I’d like to find out who built the house, how old it is, and what the floor plans are. Where do I start? What do I need? Will these government agencies think I’m freaky for wanting to know floor plans of random houses?

Thanks in advance for any assistance.

Go to City Hall. Start with the Building Department, and ask questions. Records as far back as you are looking may or may not still exist. If they do exist, they may have been microfilmed or been archived in some other fashion.

If the records do exist, they are generally accessible to the public by statute.

BTW, you’re less likely to find actual floor plans for houses than for public/commercial buildings.

Second what Robby says. Or try your state historical society, if one exists. If your town is big on historical buildings, you could get lucky. Most cities purge archives after a reasonable amount of time, particularly if the building no longer exists. Hell, we’re lucky to find floor plans for buildings that are only 20 years old. Good luck.

Depending on where you are plans may exist or not. I’m living in an apartment in a house built in the late 1800’s which used to be an isolation hospital (so obviously a larger than normal number of people must have died in it… oooooooooooh, spookey) but this is in small town southern Alberta which isn’t known for having kept proper records for very long. Building plans weren’t even required to be kept on file until the 50’s here, and even then only for actual buildings as opposed to private houses. No plans of my house ever did exist anywhere other than what the builder had.

What Robby said.

For catalog houses, like those from Sears or Bennett, you can find basic plans in reprints of the catalogs, or more detailed plans through organizations and clubs for owners of such houses.

Aha! One of my friends maintains this site. Substitute the word “Buffalo” for that of your city.

http://www.buffaloresearch.com/built.html

Excellent link, elmwood. (And you are the namesake of a beautiful street.)

Note the link to the Landmark Society. These organizations are common in New York State, but are often called by different names elsewhere.

However, by any name they have almost all possible material already gathered on historic (landmark) houses and buildings in their areas. They are (again, generally) open to the public for research purposes and have experts on staff who will know how to guide you.

If you have something similar in your city, I would start there as the friendliest and easiest way of entering into the subject.

Here’s a link to a Dover book.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0486224929/qid=1065857326/sr=2-2/002-2986786-0071227?v=glance&s=books

The great Georgian Houses in this country were all measured and documented.
It even has the plans for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. :slight_smile:

<preview> My link goes to volume 2 , but you should get both books.