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Introduction to the 1994 Architectural Records Survey

This booklet is a survey of architectural records held in repositories, government agencies, architectural firms, and private collections throughout North Carolina. The aim of this survey is to begin to unite the scattered architectural collections across the state and to initiate the process for developing a statewide collection strategy and appraisal program for North Carolina architectural records.

Architectural Records Defined

Architectural records generally are understood to be drawings and specifications. Drawings, of course, are often copied--chiefly blueprinted--for use during construction. Blueprints dominate North Carolina collections. Drawings and blueprints might include floor plans, elevations, details, sections, framing plans, and renderings. For the purpose of this survey, this definition is generally adhered to. However, the definition must remain flexible, especially in a state where vernacular architecture is so important. An architectural record may also be correspondence, reports, diaries, memoirs, or advertisements that document the design and planning of buildings. All of these sources, and countless others, document North Carolina's built environment. This compilation primarily attempts to list the surviving drawings in North Carolina. However, when important related records became evident, I included them. Therefore, the survey may seem random in scope at times.

The Challenges of Preserving Architectural Collections

As of the date of this survey (1994) the state of North Carolina does not enjoy an independent or designated repository for architectural and building records. The lack of such a repository is a burden to architects, contractors, architectural historians and scholars. It also marks an important gap in the ability to preserve the Old North State's rich architectural heritage and documentary record. Architects, builders, archivists, librarians, and architectural scholars should be concerned. (Note: In 1995 the North Carolina State University Libraries, Special Collections Research Center inaugurated a collections initiative in architectural records. This electronic version of the records survey is the result of this initiative.)

The high cost of storing, preserving, and providing access to these important records is a major obstacle for most repositories. Most smaller and many larger repositories simply do not have the requisite space or adequate funding. Compounding the problems of preserving existing collections is the number of architectural records that will need homes in the coming decade. Without repositories that can handle these records, important collections will disappear as firms close or architects retire. Furthermore, architectural firms continue to find it cost-prohibitive to save their work and often must dispose of records to make room for more recent work. Without libraries or manuscript repositories prepared to house architectural records, architects are left with no other alternative than to discard them.

Information Sources for this Records Survey

Information provided directly by archivists, librarians, manuscript curators, and architects represents a large body of the descriptions that follow in the form of questionnaire responses and existing collection descriptions. Because the depth and format of the responses and descriptions varied, listings are not standardized and generally conform to the individual response. Some collections were unprocessed and did not have detailed inventories or descriptions. In that situation, I cataloged the collections at the item level. Therefore, some of descriptions will have greater detail.

I am indebted to the Society of North Carolina Archivists' timely publication Archival and Manuscript Repositories in North Carolina: A Directory from which I based my initial mail survey. Reference works such as this are invaluable to research. The directory provides further information on all the repositories listed in this survey, such as hours of operation, telephone numbers, services and access restrictions.

I organized the survey into three major parts and three appendices. Entries appear alphabetically by city or town, and alphabetically by institution thereafter. Unless otherwise specified, dates listed refer only to dates of records, not vital statistics. If collections have assigned reference numbers or call numbers, I have included them. An index follows the appendices for additional reference.

It is important to note again that this list of records and collections is only the uppermost tip of the pyramid of possible resources for documenting and studying North Carolina buildings. Drawings are vital, but they only report only the infancy of a building's life. The vernacular landscape of North Carolina demands use of a vast array of diverse resources. Wills, estate papers, diaries, insurance maps, and letters to mention just a few, all contain rich information about the art of building in the Old North State. All these records must supplement drawings to tell of the rich and diverse culture thriving within the boundaries of North Carolina.