Archives Guide ~ Public Works Department (5000)

Historical note
Chapter 9 of the Ordinances of 1910 established the Department of Public Works and abolished the Engineering Department, Street Department and Water Department. The ordinance took effect February 1, 1911. The water works system and the sewer works system of the Public Works Department were abolished and transferred to the Boston Water and Sewer Commission by Chapter 436 of the Acts of 1977.

The Public Works Department directs the general construction, maintenance, and cleaning of approximately 808 miles of roadways throughout the City. It also provides snow and ice control for all City streets. In addition, it operates drawbridges, maintains City-owned street lights, signalized intersections and supervises contracts for the removal and disposal of solid waste. The Department also operates the City's recycling program.



5000.001 Correspondence 1960-1969 31 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Incoming and outgoing correspondence of the Commissioner of Public Works. Files are arranged chronologically and within each year by subject.



5000.002 Annual reports 1924-1982 with gaps 28 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes copies of the annual reports of the Public Works Department for 1924-1930, 1951-1954, 1956-1959, 1966-1970, 1972-1977, 1980 and 1982. Annual reports can also be found in the City Documents series.



5000.003 Street listings 1902-1999 with gaps 32 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes two copies of "A Record of the Streets, Alleys, Places, Etc. in the City of Boston" published in 1902 and 1910. These volumes include all streets, the date the street is supposed to have received that name, description of the street, and information on laying out, discontinuance of street and name changes. Also includes copies of "Boston Streets also its avenues, courts, places etc. showing the numbers and divisions of those extending through more than one ward or precinct together with the location of hotels, apartment-houses, institutions, hospitals, etc." from 1906, 1913, 1916, 1919, 1921, 1923, 1925, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1932, 1933, 1935, 1936, 1939, 1941, 1944, 1948, 1951, 1955, 1957 (supplement), 1958, 1959 (supplement), 1960 (supplement), 1963, 1971, 1976, 1982, 1989 and 1999.


5000.004 Contracts 1911-1992 with gaps 115 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Specifications and contracts for Public Works Department projects kept by the Public Works Department Bridge and Ferry Division and Contract Office.


5000.005 Scrapbooks 1871-1919 with gaps 5 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Scrapbooks kept in the Public Works Department library. Includes scrapbooks of the City Engineer, scrapbooks on the subway, real estate transactions, and miscellaneous topics.



5010 Bridge and Ferry Division

Historical note
The ordinance creating the Public Works Department took effect February 1, 1911. The Bridge and Ferry Division was one of three divisions established within the Public Works Department. The Division Engineer for the Bridge and Ferry Division had charge of the design, construction and maintenance of the highway bridges within the limits of the City, whether constructed over navigable waters or railroads, also of the care and maintenance of the ferries operated by the City. Work pertaining to the abolishment of grade crossings was attended to by this division, as well as special engineering work for other City departments.


5010.001 Plans circa 1849-1967 2 flat file cases

Scope and Contents note
Obsolete and superseded architectural and engineering drawings of the Bridge and Ferry Division for the following facilities: public ways such as bridges, streets, tunnels, navigable water bodies, ferries and ferry facilities, and miscellaneous city facilities such as cemeteries, garages, piers, sewage and rubbish facilities, parks and other open spaces, monuments, development plans, bulkheads, hospitals, penal facilities, MBTA facilities and vehicles, schools, bathhouses, Harbor islands, and neighborhoods.


5010.002 Bridge survey reports 1935 1 record carton

Scope and Contents note
Bridge inspection reports completed as part of a Federal Emergency Relief project in 1935.


5010.003 History cards circa 1900-1922 3 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Constitutes a historical summary of each structure at the time compiled, with the earliest and latest construction work being 1839-1922. Composed on 5"x8" cards and alphabetically arranged by geographic name, usually a street or water body associated with the structure. Base information was derived from research done in the City Documents and City Council Minutes, and annotated as alterations and repairs were made.


5010.004 Photographs 1926-1947, 1971-1977 1 record carton

Scope and Contents note
Photographs and negatives of bridges and ferries. Subjects include views of City bridge, ferry, and pier facilities before, during, and after repairs, views of fire boats and ferry boats moored at these facilities, and views of motor vehicles involved in accidents damaging these facilities.



5010.005 Contract index 1911-1959 1 volume

Scope and Contents note
Index to contracts, contractors and invitations to bid from 1956-1959 and an alphabetical index of all bridge contracts from 1911-1955.



5020 Engineering Division

Historical note
The Office of City Engineer was established by ordinance passed on October 31, 1850. By Chapter 449 of the Acts of 1895, the Surveying Department and the Office of City Surveyor was abolished and the duties transferred to the Engineering Department and the Office of City Engineer. By Chapter 9 of the Ordinances of 1910, the power and duties of the Engineering Department were absorbed by the newly created Public Works Department. A Survey Division of the Public Works Department was established May 1, 1954, under Chapter 2 of the Ordinances of 1954, Section 56, which amended Section 33 of Chapter 27 of the Revised Ordinances of 1947. The division performed certain engineering services for the divisions of the Public Works Department and other City departments. It also performed administrative and engineering services required by the Public Improvement Commission. On March 15-16, 1960, the functions and employees of the Bridge, Highway, Water, and Sewer Divisions engaged in engineering design were transferred to the Survey Division. The Survey Division was renamed the Engineering Division in 1961.


5020.001 Plans circa 1892-1960 14 flat file drawers

Scope and Contents note
Engineering Department and Public Works Department, Highway Division plans for streets, retaining walls, sea walls, edgestones, etc. Includes two sets of plans: OB# plans and OC# plans.


5020.002 Correspondence 1904-1941 with gaps 5 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Five outgoing letter-copy volumes of Engineering Department - Survey Division and Street Laying-Out Department - Engineering Division correspondence. Includes volumes from 1904-1926 and 1932-1941.


5020.003 Scrapbook and badge circa 1890-1910 1 volume and 1 artifact

Scope and Contents note
Scrapbook of H.G. Botsford containing photographs documenting work with the Engineering Department of the City of Boston, newspaper clippings, and ephemera. Also includes City of Boston Engineering Department badge.


5020.004 Annual reports and publications 1875-1905 with gaps 9 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes three bound volumes of City Engineer's reports for 1875-1897; "Tabular Representation of the Present Condition of Boston in relation to Railroad Facilities, Foreign Commerce, Population, Wealth, Manufactures, etc.", 1851; "Prevention of Floods in the Valley of Stony Brook", 1886; "Lists of Maps of Boston published between 1614 and 1822", 1902; "Lists of Maps of Boston published between 1600 and 1903", 1903; "Lists of Maps of Boston published Subsequent to 1600", 1904; and "Series of Plans of Boston showing Existing Ways and Owners of Property 1630-1635-1640-1645", 1905. Annual reports can also be found in the City Documents series.


5020.005 Boston Harbor reports 1852-1879 2 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Two bound volumes compiled by the City Engineer's Office of reports on the harbor issued at the city, state and federal level. Includes annual reports of the Harbor Commissioners.


5020.006 Street survey files circa 1910-1950 16 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Engineering Division street survey files arranged alphabetically by street name.  Includes surveyor notes, plans, calculations, etc.  Streets from other cities and towns may also be included.



5030 Street Lighting

Historical note
The Lamp Department was first legalized by statute on June 29, 1773. The office of Superintendent of Lamps had existed since the year 1843, though it was first formerly established by ordinance on October 26, 1869. The department was separated from that of the Police in 1854. Chapter 3 of the Ordinances of 1908, approved by the Mayor on 6 April 1908, consolidated the Bridge, Sanitary, Sewer and Street Cleaning and Watering Departments, created by Chapters 1, 2, and 3 of the Ordinances of 1906 and the Lamp Department, as created by Chapter 22 of the Revised Ordinances of 1898, with the Street Department, which was placed under the charge of the Superintendent of Streets. In the Public Works Department, responsibility for street lighting falls under the Highway Division.


5030.001 Records circa 1952-1978 1 record carton

Scope and Contents note
Records of the Street Lighting Division relating to urban renewal projects, gas lamps and crime.


5030.002 Contract 1909 May 5 1 volume

Scope and Contents note
Copy of the Street Lighting Contract between the City of Boston and the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Boston.


5030.003 Street Lighting History collection circa 1902-2001 6 document cases, 1 flat file and 1 large volume

Scope and Contents note
Includes record of "Location of Gas Street Lamps' July 1942 corrected to 1946 and June 1, 1979 corrected to May 1, 1981; survey, news clippings, contracts, correspondence, plans, scrapbook and photographs relating to Gas Street Lamps in the City of Boston. Also includes card with schedule for lighting and extinguishing gas lamps and rules for the operation of lamps equipped with automatic lighting machines.

Guide to the Street Lighting History Collection



5040 Sewer Division

Historical note
The Office of Superintendent of Sewers was established by ordinance passed June 6, 1837. The Superintendent of Sewers, appointed annually, had the general supervision of all sewers built, or permitted to be built, by the City, the charge of their building and repair, and the regulation of private drains entering into common sewers. The department also had charge of all catch-basins, their construction and cleaning. By ordinance approved March 9, 1891, in amendment of Chapter 18 of the Revised Ordinances of 1890, the Departments of Sewers, Sanitary Police, and Bridges, and the Office of Commissioner of Cambridge Bridges, were consolidated and placed under the administrative control of the Superintendent of Streets.

Chapters 1 and 3 of the Ordinances of 1906 re-established the Sewer Department. The Sewer Department had charge of the preparation of plans for sewerage works, the construction and maintenance of all drainage works, including the investigation of complaints in regard to defective drainage, the granting of permits for making sewer connections and the preparation of plans for the assessment of the cost of sewer construction; and made and delivered to the City Collector all bills for sewer assessments. Chapter 3 of the Ordinances of 1908, approved by the Mayor on 6 April 1908, consolidated the Bridge, Sanitary, Sewer and Street Cleaning and Watering Departments, created by Chapters 1, 2, and 3 of the Ordinances of 1906 and the Lamp Department, created by Chapter 22 of the Revised Ordinances of 1898, with the Street Department, which was placed under the charge of the Superintendent of Streets.

The water works system and the sewer works system of the Public Works Department were abolished and the powers transferred to the Boston Water and Sewer Commission by Chapter 436 of the Acts of 1977.


5040.001 Betterment plans 1897-1955 21 flat file drawers

Scope and Contents note
Assessment plans for the construction of sewers.



5040.002 Sewer plans circa 1890-1972 7 flat file drawers and 8 bins

Scope and Contents note
"M" series of sewer plans, circa 1890-1972; and miscellaneous sewer plans, circa 1912-1942. The "M" series includes sewer plans of Stony Brook, Austin Farm, the Fenway, Jamaicaway, Savin Hill Bay and other areas. The miscellaneous plans include West Roxbury sewer plans.


5040.003 Sewer recordings 1903-1958 with gaps 4 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Chapter 268 of the Acts of 1903 required, prior to the construction of any sewer, the recording in the Suffolk Registry of Deeds of a statement approved by the Mayor of his intention to construct the sewer, naming the street or describing the land in which the sewer is to be constructed and giving an estimate of the construction. Includes sewer recordings for 1903-1911 and 1929-1958.



5040.004 Level books circa 1920-1940 2 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Books used by engineers to record survey notes and levels.



5040.005 Project files circa 1942-1957 2 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Sewer Division project files on projects at Charles Street Jail, Moon Island, Calf Pasture and Stony Brook. This collection is unprocessed.


5040.006 Deeds circa 1866-1914 1 record carton

Scope and Contents note
Includes deeds, releases, agreements, contracts, plans, and correspondence relating to sewers.



5040.007 Takings and orders to build 1879-1956 with gaps 6 record cartons

Scope and Contents note
Notices of takings and orders to build sewers for the years 1879-1903, 1910-1914, 1916-1917, 1921-1928, 1930-1935, and 1938-1956 and notices of takings for Hyde Park for 1903-1904.



5050 Street Department

Historical note
The Office of Superintendent of Streets was established by ordinance passed August 22, 1833. Under the direction of the Mayor, the Superintendent of Streets, appointed annually, superintended the general condition of the streets of the City and had charge of constructing, paving and repairing them; also all sidewalks and of numbering all buildings.

Prior to 1882, the department under the charge of the Superintendent of Streets was called the Paving Department. The department under the charge of the Street Commissioners was called the Street Department. From 1883, the departments under charge of the Street Commissioners and the Superintendent of Streets were collectively called the Street Department. The Street Commissioners had charge of the laying out and widening of streets and highways. The Superintendent of Streets had charge of the work of laying out, widening, etc. By Chapters 18 and 36 of the Revised Ordinances of 1890, the department under the charge of the Street Commissioners was called the Street Laying-Out Department and the department under the charge of the Superintendent of Streets was called the Street Department.

By ordinance approved March 9, 1891, in amendment of Chapter 18 of the Revised Ordinances of 1890, the Departments of Sewers, Sanitary Police, and Bridges, and the Office of Commissioner of Cambridge Bridges, were consolidated and placed under the administrative control of the Superintendent of Streets. Chapter 3 of the Ordinances of 1908, approved by the Mayor on April 6, 1908, consolidated the Bridge, Sanitary, Sewer and Street Cleaning and Watering Departments, created by chapters 1, 2, and 3 of the Ordinances of 1906 and the Lamp Department, created by chapter 22 of the Revised Ordinances of 1898, with the Street Department, which was placed under the charge of the Superintendent of Streets.

The Superintendent of Streets had control of the construction and repair of streets, sidewalks and sewers, the cleaning and watering of streets, the care and management of bridges and ferries, the maintenance of public lamps in streets and parks and the collection and disposal of house offal, etc. He was authorized to regulate the numbering of buildings and to issue permits for various purposes, e.g., opening, occupying and obstructing the streets, laying water pipes, entering sewers, etc., laying railway tracks in the streets, or wires or conduits under the streets; or to erect poles for the support of wires.

Chapter 9 of the Ordinances of 1910 established the Department of Public Works and abolished the Engineering Department, Street Department and Water Department.


5050.001 Annual reports 1893, 1900-1901 3 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes copies of Street Department annual reports for 1893, 1900 and 1901. Annual reports can also be found in the City Documents series.



5060 Street Laying-Out Department

Historical note
Chapter 337 of the Acts of 1870 established the Board of Street Commissioners. All the powers of the Board of Aldermen concerning the laying-out, altering or discontinuing the streets and ways in the city and the powers of the Board of Aldermen in relation to the abatement of taxes were transferred to the Board of Street Commissioners.

From 1870 to 1882, the department under the charge of the Street Commissioners was called the Street Department. The department under the charge of the Superintendent of Streets was called the Paving Department. From 1883-1890, the departments under charge of the Street Commissioners and the Superintendent of Streets were collectively called the Street Department. The Street Commissioners had charge of the laying out and widening of streets and highways. The Superintendent of Streets had charge of the work of laying out, widening, etc. By Chapters 18 and 36 of the Revised Ordinances of 1890, the department under the charge of the Street Commissioners was called the Street Laying-Out Department and the department under the charge of the Superintendent of Streets was called the Street Department.

By Section 57 of Chapter 2 of the Ordinances of 1954, the powers and duties of the Board of Street Commissioners were transferred to the Public Improvement Commission except those concerning inflammable material which were transferred to the Committee on Licenses in the Public Safety Commission, those concerning the planting and removal of trees, projections in, over or on the public ways, and storage and sale of merchandise which were transferred to the Commissioner of Public Works, and those concerning the abatement of taxes which were transferred to the Real Property Board.


5060.001 Proceedings 1871-1911 with gaps 15 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Minutes of the Board of Street Commissioners for 1871, 1874, 1876, 1879, 1881, 1883-1884, 1901, 1905-1909 and 1911.



5060.002 Record of private ways approved 1928 March-1947 December 1 volume

Scope and Contents note
Votes of Street Commissioners accepting private ways approved by the Mayor.


5060.003 Record of business of Street Commission 1889-1897 1 volume

Scope and Contents note
Log of business before the Street Commission relating to laying out of streets. Lists street, parties in interest, number of square feet taken, when taken, estimates, amount paid and notes.


5060.004 Street notices 1873-1876 2 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Two volumes of printed public notices of the Board of Street Commissioners relating to laying out streets, land takings and schedules of assessments.


5060.005 Annual reports 1893-1951 51 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes copies of annual reports of the Street Laying-Out Department for the years 1893-1898, 1900-1902, 1904-1908, 1910, 1912-1928, 1930-1934, 1936, 1938-1940, 1942-1943 and 1945-1951. Annual reports can also be found in the City Documents series.


5060.006 City Council orders circa 1871-1910 1 record carton

Scope and Contents note
City Council orders to the Board of Street Commissioners relative to laying out streets, extending streets and providing estimates.


5060.007 News clippings 1903-1927 1 volume

Scope and Contents note
One volume of news clippings of court decisions relating to streets.



5070 Surveying Department

Scope and Contents note
The Office of the City Surveyor was established by ordinance passed on October 12, 1868. The Surveying Department was under charge of the City Surveyor, who made such surveys, plans, estimates, statements and descriptions and took such levels as the City Government or any of its departments or committees required. Chapter 449 of the Acts of 1895 abolished the Surveying Department and the Office of City Surveyor and transferred to the power and duties to the Engineering Department and the Office of City Engineer.


5070.001 Plans and notes circa 1834-1923 16 record cartons, 3 flat file drawers

Scope and Contents note
Plans and files of survey notes of Civil Engineer Charles H.W. Wood Co. Files are numbered 1-1770. This collection is unprocessed.


5070.002 Record of grades 1870-1879 1 volume

Scope and Contents note
Volume kept by the City Surveyor's Office of copies of orders of the Board of Street Commissioners to establish the grades of streets in Dorchester.


5070.003 Index to notes circa 1859-1894 1 volume

Scope and Contents note
Index to notes of the Board of Survey. Arranged alphabetically by street with book and page number, date and surveyor.


 
5070.004 Card file circa 1891-1901 1 record carton

Scope and Contents note
Card file kept by Board of Survey for miscellaneous notes, miscellaneous calculations and Brighton notes.



5080 Water Department

Historical note
The first water-document published by the city of Boston appeared in 1825. The public introduction of water from Lake Cochituate took place on October 25, 1848. Chapter 80 of the Acts of 1875 authorized the City Council to unite the Cochituate and Mystic Water Boards under one board of three members, to be called the Boston Water Board. An ordinance to establish the Boston Water Board was passed March 22, 1876. The Boston Water Works consisted of the Cochituate Water Works, subdivided into two divisions, the Eastern and the Western, and the Mystic Water Works. The Water Income Department, which dealt with the revenues from water and with water-takers, was under the charge of the Water Registrar. The office of Water Registrar was established by the ordinance of October 31, 1850. By Chapter 449 of the Acts of 1895, the Boston Water Board, the Water Income Department and the Water Registrar were abolished and the Water Department created, a single commissioner being entrusted with all the powers previously exercised by the Boston Water Board and the Boston Water Registrar.

By Chapter 488 of the Acts of 1895, the State provided for a metropolitan water supply, Boston being included among the municipalities thus to be supplied. A State Commission, the Metropolitan Water Board, in accordance with said act, took possession, in 1898, of all that part of the Boston water system lying westward of Chestnut Hill Reservoir, including the pumping station and adjacent lands. Chapter 9 of the Ordinances of 1910 established the Department of Public Works and abolished the Engineering Department, Street Department and Water Department. The water works system and the sewer works system of the Public Works Department were abolished and transferred to the Boston Water and Sewer Commission by Chapter 436 of the Acts of 1977.


5080.001 Cochituate Water Works deeds and index 1846-1897 2 record cartons and 1 volume

Scope and Contents note
Deeds and releases for property and easements taken for the Cochituate Water Works and index to deeds. Also includes Church Street District deeds.


5080.002 Annual reports and publications 1851-1895 10 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes copies of annual reports of the Cochituate Water Board for 1869-1870 and the Boston Water Board for 1879 and 1892-1893; reports of the Cochituate Water Board from 1851 and 1874; History of the Introduction of Pure Water into the City of Boston…, 1868; History of the Boston Water-Works from 1868-1876, 1876; and Short Description of the Boston Water-Works, 1895. Annual reports and other documents can be found in the City Documents series.