Archives Guide ~ Inspectional Services Department (5400)

Historical note

The Inspectional Services Department was established by Chapter 19 of the Ordinances of 1981. Inspectional Services holds and exercises all powers and duties imposed on it by law including but not limited to duties formerly held and exercised by the Building Commissioner and the Housing Inspection Commissioner. The Inspectional Services Department (ISD) is comprised of five regulatory divisions whose aim is to protect and improve the quality of life for all Boston residents by effectively administering and enforcing building, housing, health, sanitation and safety regulations mandated by City and State governments.




5410 Building Division

Historical note
The Building Department was established by Chapter 280 of the Acts of 1871 “An Act to Provide for the regulation and Inspection of Buildings, the more effectual Prevention of Fire and the Better Protection of Life and Property in the City of Boston.” This act was superseded by Chapter 419 of the Acts of 1892. This act, although amended from time to time, remained in effect until August 1, 1907, when it was superseded by Chapter 550 of the Acts of 1907, which remained as the Building Law of the City of Boston until 1943. Chapter 479 of the Acts of 1938 as amended, “An Act for the Codification, Revision and Amendment of the Laws Relative to the Construction, Alterations and Maintenance of Buildings and other Structures in the City of Boston” was passed by the Legislature on June 27, 1938, with the provision that it take effect upon its acceptance by the Boston City Council, whereupon the Council proceeded to hold a series of public hearings on proposed amendments submitted by architects, builders, property owners and various civic organizations. As a result of these hearings, numerous amendments to the act were accepted by the City Council. The Act was approved by the Council in 1943. Since 1943, the code underwent several minor and a number of major amendments or revisions. On January 1, 1975, the Massachusetts State Building Code, Chapter 802 of the Acts of 1972, as amended, went into effect in the City of Boston and superseded all previous codes. The Building Department and the Housing Inspection Department were abolished and all powers and duties transferred to the Inspectional Services Department by Chapter 19 of the Ordinances of 1981.


5410.001 Building permit files of demolished buildings (Takedowns) circa 1919-1987 162 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Building permit files of demolished buildings, also called "Takedowns." File jacket usually includes original building permit, permits for repair or renovation, violation notices, correspondence and permit to repair or raze(Takedown permit).



5410.002 Photographs of demolished buildings circa 1950-1990 75 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Photograph files of buildings ordered razed by the City of Boston. Photographs document condition of building just prior to demolition and usually include photograph of lot after demolition.



5410.003 Permits and permit log books 1874-1963 21 volumes and 3 document cases

Scope and Contents note
Miscellaneous building/alteration permits and logs of permits issued and applications filed. Includes permits to do alterations, 1874-1876, 1886 and 1888; logs of daily entry sheets of new construction, alterations, elevators, fire escapes, takedowns, etc., 1946-1947, 1950-1959, logs of gas fitting permits, 1939, 1953-1963; log of electrical permits, 1956-1959, log of plumbing permits, 1953-1957; log of applications to install boilers, engines, ovens, sprinklers, etc., 1958-1962; log of unsafe buildings, 1953-1957; log of permits for 3rd class and composite buildings, 1913-1915; log of building permits issued, 1910, 1927-1928; log of plans filed, 1916-1917; and log of violations of the statutes, 1953-1957.



5410.004 Permit plans circa 1970-1995 7 file cabinets

Scope and Contents note
Plans filed with building permits on aperture cards. Contact the Inspectional Services Department, Building Division for access to plans.



5410.005 Certificates of Use and Occupancy 1972-1995 147 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Files arranged alphabetically by address. Files generally include copy of the certificate, inspection reports and other materials submitted during the application process.



5410.006 Building Code 1887-1970 with gaps 11 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Printed volumes of legislation relating to buildings for the years 1887, 1892, 1895, 1901, 1915, 1921, 1944, 1954, 1962, 1964 and 1970.



5410.007 Subject files circa 1958-1985 5 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Subject files of the Building Commissioner. Includes correspondence, reports, plans, etc.


5410.008 Bulletins 1962-1972 1 volume

Scope and Contents note
Building Commissioner's Bulletins relating to approvals for use of new building products. Includes bulletins #101-#184.



5410.009 Photographs of Building Department offices circa 1917, 1968 30 photographs

Scope and Contents note
Includes photographs of Building Department offices from circa 1917 including Commissioner's Office, Inspectors' desks, plans area, and document file vault. Also includes photographs of Building Department offices in the New City Hall, 1968.



5410.010 Special examination reports and photographs 1915-1918 1 volume

Scope and Contents note
Reports of special examinations of buildings in response to complaints of unsafe conditions. Includes photographs of buildings.



5410.011 Hotel Vendome records circa 1911-1973 2 document cases

Scope and Contents note
Records relating to the collapse of the Hotel Vendome which killed nine Boston firefighters on June 17, 1972. Includes files of permits, correspondence, etc. of the Hotel Vendome at 154-170 Commonwealth avenue that were reviewed during the investigation into the collapse; correspondence relating to the investigation; final report of the investigation; and supplemental report on the reconstruction.



5410.012 Street numbering records 1898-1972 3 letter boxes and 10 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes Building Department copies of notices of changes in street numbering sent by the Public Works Department and street number logs from 1898-1946, 1951-1958 and 1964-1970.


5410.013 Correspondence 1969-1975 12 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Includes incoming and outgoing correspondence of the Building Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner. This collection is unprocessed.



5420 Committee on Licenses

 Historical note
The Committee on Licenses is under the board known as the Public Safety Commission in the Building Department. The Committee on Licenses is comprised of representatives from the Fire Department, Inspectional Services Department and the Transportation Department. The Committee on Licenses has the powers and performs the duties formerly conferred on the Board of Street Commissioners relating to the permitting for the storage of flammable materials and storage of vehicles in garages.


5420.001 Proceedings 1954-1970 2 record cartons
Scope and Contents note

Minutes and hearing lists of the meetings of the Public Safety Commission, Committee on Licenses.



5420.002 Flammable/underground storage permit applications circa 1908-1984 26 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Approved applications for storage of flammable materials in aboveground and underground storage tanks. Also includes garage permits for the storage of gasoline in the tanks of cars.



5420.003 Records circa 1957-1975 5 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Miscellaneous records of the Committee on Licenses. Includes hearing transcripts, correspondence, lists and applications for used car dealerships, revocations and applications for open air parking space licenses. This collection is unprocessed.



5420.004 Index to Licenses and permits issued circa 1911-1962 12 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Index card file for underground/flammable licenses and permits issued for wards 16-22 only. Arranged alphabetically by address within each ward.



5420.005 Index to applications withdrawn circa 1911-1940 2 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Index card file for withdrawn underground/flammable permit applications for wards 1-22. Arranged alphabetically by address within each ward.



5420.006 Photographs circa 1962-1982 17 folders

Scope and Contents note
Photographs of miscellaneous inflammable liquid storage facilities. Includes aerial photographs of Commercial Point in Dorchester showing the Boston Gas tank from 1968.



5430 Division of Health Inspections

Historical note
The Division of Health Inspections regulates food establishments such as: retail food stores, restaurants, caterers, commissaries, day care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, mobile and Haymarket vendors as well as recreational camps for children, swimming pools, baths and funeral homes.


5430.001 Records circa 1978-1994 11 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Includes copies of permits issued for milk wholesalers, funeral directors, sale of frozen desserts, massage/vapor baths, etc., circa 1977-1988; complaints of violations, circa 1978- 1986; and temporary food service applications, 1992-1994. This collection is unprocessed.



5440 Housing Inspection Division

Historical note
A Housing Inspection Department was created in the City of Boston by Chapter 1 of the Ordinances of 1965. Minimum standards of fitness for human habitation were adopted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health effective 1 October 1960. The City of Boston created the Housing Inspection Department to serve as a clearinghouse for all complaints of violations relating to housing conditions. Chapter 19 of the Ordinances of 1981 merged the Building Department and Housing Inspection Department and formed the Inspectional Services Department. The Housing Inspection Division of the Inspectional Services Department enforces the State Sanitary Code as it pertains to residential dwellings, both public and private and also enforces city ordinances relating to housing conditions.


5440.001 Records circa 1956-1991 9 record cartons and 4 document cases

Scope and Contents note
Includes administrative files, complaint case files, financial records, etc. This collection is unprocessed.



5450 Board of Appeals

Historical note
Any applicant for a permit from the Building Commissioner whose application has been refused in re building law or in re zoning law may appeal there from within ninety days, and a person who has been ordered to incur expenses may within thirty days after receiving such order (or in the case of its being a hazardous condition in the opinion of the Building Commissioner within ten days) appeal to the Board of Appeal by giving notice in writing to the Commissioner. All cases of appeal are settled by the Board after a hearing, and a decision rendered on same open for public inspection.


5450.001 Proceedings 1936, 1974-1980 1 volume and 2 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Minutes of the Board of Appeals on Zoning from 1936 and minutes of the Board of Appeals from 1974-1980.



5460 Board of Zoning Adjustment

Historical note
The Board of Zoning Adjustment was established by Chapter 488 of the Acts of 1924. The Board consisted on the Chairman of the City Planning Board and eleven other members, and eleven alternates, appointed by the Mayor from certain societies, boards and associations. Either upon petition or otherwise, the Board could change the boundaries of districts, by changing the zoning map on file at the state secretary's office, to meet altered needs of a locality, to avoid undue concentration of population, to provide adequate light and air, to lessen congestion in streets, to secure safety from fire, panic and other dangers, to facilitate the adequate provision of transportation, water, sewerage, and other public requirements and to promote the health, safety, convenience and welfare of the inhabitants of the City of Boston. The Board of Zoning Adjustment was dissolved on December 30, 1964 and the new Boston Zoning Code became effective on December 31, 1964.


5460.001 Proceedings 1957 June 12-1963 April 24 0.5 record carton

Scope and Contents note
Minutes of the meetings of the Board of Zoning Adjustment.



5460.002 Decisions 1924-1955 5 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Decisions on petitions presented to the Board of Zoning Adjustment. Includes petition, correspondence, hearing transcript, decision and maps.



5460.003 Sign permit index circa 1924-1945 1 record carton

Scope and Contents note
Index card file of sign permits approved with information on applicant, location, and dimensions.



5460.004 Annual reports 1925-1939 with gaps 8 folders

Scope and Contents note
Copies of annual reports submitted to the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office for the years 1925, 1927-1931, 1936 and 1939. Annual reports can also be found in the City Documents series.



5470 Commission on the Height of Buildings

Historical note
Chapter 333 of the Special Acts of 1915 created a commission consisting of the chairman of the City Planning Board, the Fire Commissioner and the Building Commissioner to determine and revise the boundaries of districts A and B as designated by the commission on height of buildings, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 333 of the Acts of 1904. Upon the recording of the order of revision, the commission became inoperative.


5470.001 Proceedings 1915 December 15-1917 January 12 1 volume

Scope and Contents note
Includes minutes, hearing transcripts and orders of the Commission.