HABS/HAER/HALS Documentations from 2017 and 2018

***2017 and 2018 have been busy and diverse years of Historic American Buildings Surveys (HABS) and Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) projects all over California, and even in Hawaii and Guam. I thought I'd share a selection of my favorite large format negatives from the last couple years. Of course these are only the ones I can share now, some very cool projects are under wraps until the projects are over. I'll share them here when they are ready for the public domain.

POLARIS 4X5 NEG-8E_schafphoto_-089-HAER Photograph by S Schafer-089
USGS Polaris in Redwood City Harbor. 4x5 Large Format Photograph, HAER-CA-2326
IMagnin_4x5-NEG-8E_schafphoto-015-HABS Photograph by S Schafer-015
I Magnin & Company, Wilshire Blvd. Department Store. 4x5 Large Format HABS-Like Photograph 
Rainbow_4x5-NEG-8E_schafphoto-274-HAER Photograph by S Schafer-274
Rainbow Gas Compressor Building, Rainbow, California. 4x5 Large Format HAER-Like Photograph
El_Camino_4x5_Neg_8e_schafphoto-020-HABS Photograph by S Schafer-020
Main Entry to Administration Building at El Camino College, Torrance, CA. 4x5 Large Format HABS-Like Photograph.
16_MtSAC 2017 TechCenter 28 -109-HABS Photograph by S Schafer-109
Mount San Antonio College Aviation Technology Building. 4x5 Large Format HABS-Like Photograph.
39-MOUNT VERNON AVENUE BRIDGE - 117-HAER Photograph by S Schafer-117
Mt. Vernon Avenue Bridge, San Bernardino, California. 4x5 Large Format HAER-Like Photograph
14_GroverCleve ARG 2018 schafphoto-049-HABS Photograph by S Schafer-049
Typical Hallway Between Classrooms at Grover Cleveland High School, Reseda. 4x5 Large Format HABS Photograph.
HABS-CA-1-HAER Photograph by S Schafer-
Addendum to the first HAER documentation in California. San Francisco Fire department, Pumping Station Number 2.  HAER-CA-1
Cerritos Channel Towers-HAER Photograph by S Schafer-089
Cerritos Channel Transmission Towers, Long Beach. 4x5 Large Format Photograph, HAER-CA-2344 
Venice HS Shop 2 and 3 086-HAER Photograph by S Schafer-086
Milling Machines in Venice High School Metal Shop. 4x5 Large Format HABS-Like Photograph.
Mission 1500-07-HABS Photograph by S Schafer-07
1500 Mission Street, San Francisco. 4x5 Large Format HABS-Like Photograph
Mission Bay High School074-HABS Photograph by S Schafer-074
Mission Bay High School Music Room, San Diego. 4x5 Large Format HABS-Like Photograph.




Take a look at the Frequently Asked Questions section of our website if you’d like more information about HABS/HAER/HALS photography.

Stephen Schafer, Photographer
Ventura, California


HABS Mitigation for CEQA (Part 1: Is Cheaper Also Better?)

Do Simpler Local Documentations Really Save Time, Money and Resources?

Blue Wing HABS schafphoto Sonoma compare pano
HABS Photograph The Blue Wing Adobe, Sonoma, 1934 left  • blog post 2012 right (donated) 


The Pitch: The three programs administered by the Heritage Documentation Programs (HDP) department of the National Park Service (NPS), called the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), and the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS), are the gold-standard of documentation policies. The data created for HABS/HAER/HALS requires a Life Expectancy of over 500 years (LE500). Basically, as close to "FOREVER" as we are likely to get. This is accomplished by keeping the photographic negatives in “state-of-the-art curatorial facilities” at Fort Meade in Maryland which are humidity- and temperature-controlled. After donation to HABS, the Library of Congress (LoC) accessions the data, but that's not the end of the story; the Prints & Photographs Division also carries out a series of steps including text-scanning all the documents, scanning the drawings and film-scanning all the original negatives in high resolution. That's where the accessibility comes in; all the keyword-searchable data, medium resolution Jpegs and high resolution Tiff files of the drawings and photographs are uploaded to the LoC HABS WEBSITE available on the Internet for public viewing 24/7/365 worldwide. Can your local historical society do that?


The data created for HABS/HAER/HALS

requires a Life Expectancy of over 500 years…  

Can your local historical society do that?


Documentation of historic resources is one way to mitigate impacts to significant properties and photographic documentation is one facet of a comprehensive CEQA mitigation strategy.  There are many ways to document resources with digital photography, video, illustration, virtual reality, point-clouds, drone photography and activities that haven’t even been invented yet. These innovative mitigations are a great way to make mitigations more meaningful, but they need to supplement the required HABS documentation because HABS is the only way to guarantee perpetual access and storage. While these other documentation activities can be used to help share the memory of a site, only documentation for HABS/HAER/HALS meets the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Architectural and Engineering Documentation (SISAED); because it follows three basic requirements:

  • Photography & measuring to capture maximum data.
  • Archival document production and archival materials.
  • Perpetual storage with perpetual public access.

Not just one or two of the basic tenets are required, but all three. The archival film, drawings and reports are placed in climate controlled cold storage and the keyword-searchable documentations are made available worldwide on the LoC website: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/hh/   While it may appear that doing a partial HABS, HABS-Like, or Diet-HABS documentation using digital photography and/or distributing the artifacts locally would be sufficient, in order for the mitigation to be a public benefit for future generations and meet the SISAED, the entire HABS procedure must be followed.

HABS photograph, Marr Residence, Riverside, photographed 2012 for donation

The Good News: Better is Cheaper: Counterintuitively, making only one copy of a HABS/HAER/HALS documentation for the Library of Congress and donating it to Heritage Documentation Programs in Washington DC through their informal donation policy is less expensive than distributing multiple archival copies locally. Note that what we call the "direct donation" procedure to HDP is different than the required "mitigation review" procedure for federal undertakings administered at the NPS Western Regional Office (more on that later). If a lead agency oversees mitigations for a historic resource under CEQA, then the mitigation should actually result in a public benefit when completed. The ACT of documentation does not have a mitigating effect on the resource. The data recorded and its distribution to the public into the future is the mitigating effect; the more widespread and long term the data distribution, the more meaningful the mitigation.

HABS donations don't need to be great buildings. HABS-CA-438-14, donated 2014 


It is the three tenets above: Maximum Data Documentation/Archival Data/Perpetual Accessibility that make a HABS/HAER/HALS survey work, but local documentations usually fall apart on number 3: Accessibility. In our experience CEQA mitigations usually require large format photography and measured drawings "follow HABS/HAER/HALS guidelines*" they often expressly require large format film photographs by an experienced photographer and measured drawings by an experienced architect. These mitigations go on to require document production on archival materials "to HABS/HAER/HALS guidelines*." Then things go haywire, in an attempt to avoid the perceived delay associated with NPS review and perhaps the perceived expense of the getting the data into the LoC, the mitigations spell out the multitude of local historical societies, libraries, archives, info centers and museums that will get copies of the archival prints and sometimes additional sets of master negatives as well. This last rewriting of the guidelines, can be the costliest and yet it often reduces the public benefit of the mitigation, because once those negatives are in typical storage, their life expectancy starts to fade. Local archives cannot afford to keyword scan and upload the high-resolution photos and do not have LE500 state-of-the-art curatorial facilities that keep the negatives at a temperature of 35ºF and 30% relative humidity.

The concept of "HABS-Like" is a failure: There, I said it. All of the "HABS-Like" large format documentations we produce in California as CEQA mitigations could be repackaged into HABS archival negative envelopes ($1.00 each) and mailed to HDP in Washington DC for inclusion in the LoC without any further effort on our part; the majority of CEQA mitigations already require HABS guideline* conformance and they are thus ready for donation to the LoC (which will never happen, because the negatives have been delivered and accessioned and no archive would give them back). These local documentations will stay local, most won't ever be scanned, none are keyword-searchable, most won't be available on the internet and often just sit on a shelf in the basement of the planning department or local library because three-ring binders of archival prints and negatives don't mix well on the shelves of books upstairs. All this means they don't rise to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards; close, but no cigar.

HABS photograph, 1550 5th Street, Santa Monica, HABS-CA-438-6, donated 2014


There are some solid archives out there, like the SF Public Library and the LA Public Library, and these are a good place for "second copies" if you want a local set after sending the SISAED compliant negatives to LoC. These large public libraries do have good facilities, and good search and access procedures, but they are not "forever" and not available online 27/7/365 to anyone, even if they don't have a library card. We have experienced cases where seven sets of prints and drawings and two sets of negatives were requested in a mitigation. Often one of those sets of negatives is destined for HABS anyway, making the printing six times more expensive without any actual accessibility benefit to the public, the LoC set is going to be more accessible, more searchable and better stored (more foreverable) than any local set.

A recent seven-print mitigation: The HABS documentation shall be submitted to NPS for transmittal to the Library of Congress (1), and archival copies shall be sent to the City Landmark Committee (2). In addition, one original copy shall be sent to each of the following entities:

3. Southern California Coastal Information Center (SCCIC).
4. The archives of the City of X Conservancy.
5. The archives of the City of X Historical Society.
6. The archives of the City Public Library.
7. The archives of The Huntington Library.

Print sets that will last a lifetime, for city planning, local historical conservancies and landmarks commissioners, can be produced as acid-free paper laser prints from a color copier for less than $1.00 each and regular 11x17" paper plans can be printed for a fraction of full-sized archival vellum drawings that met the HABS spec. Or better yet, add on some DVD's with PDF reports, maps, historic photos and scans all ready for easy access and sharing, or Print-On-Demand books for the local library. The creative, innovative, video documentations, virtual-reality walk-thrus, drone photography, coloring books, ghost stories and 3-D renderings should go to the local groups for dissemination on everyone's websites and Facebook and Instagram pages. Once the master set of archival prints, negatives, drawings and report are donated to HDP and accessioned by LoC, there is no need for the city or local groups to store, protect, insure or backup the core data from a HABS survey. If a local citizen wants to access the high resolution files, just type the name of the city into the Library of Congress HABS search box, here, and voila, instant access. The high resolution photographic and drawing files alone take up hundreds of megabytes of space and creating a website to disseminate those images would perpetually need updating, maintenance, and a backup strategy in case of server crashes or viruses. The negatives need to be kept cool and dry and the prints should be available to historians, students and the public. Can your local library archive negatives forever? Most local libraries and museums lack the ability to archivally store film negatives for even a generation, and definitely can't compete with Library of Congress life expectancy of over 500 years.

In the end,

why not let the Library of Congress

deal with it for the next 20+ generations?


What's Stopping You? (Probably NPS review) We want to dispel a couple of myths that have made HABS-Like documentations popular.

Myth #1: NPS Heritage Documentation Programs is only interested in National Historic Landmarks and properties on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Heritage Documentation Programs staff want documentations, if it's historic they want it. From the beginning the HABS mandate was to document  "A complete resume of the builder's art." The formal 1933 proposal for HABS intended that it cover " … structures of all types, from the smallest utilitarian structures to the largest and most monumental."  A 1997 memo was circulated by the ACHP that stated that federal documentation will only be carried out on National Historic Landmarks and Nationally significant sites to the detriment of the HABS/HAER collections, but a recent memo has replaced that limiting policy with an inclusive policy that federal documentations will include ALL historic properties. HDP has also been very keen on accepting documentations of resources that are not on the National Register but have local historic significance, buildings as small as a hot dog stand that would not usually require a federally reviewed mitigation.

HABS photograph, Top Hat Hot Dog Stand, Ventura, HABS-CA-2863, donated 2010


Myth #2: HABS/HAER/HALS "direct donations" are reviewed for adequacy and require approval by the NPS regional office.

Heritage Documentation Programs "direct donations" are not reviewed like federal mitigations. For mitigations under Section 106, the portion of the National Historic Preservation Act, draft HABS mitigations must be reviewed by the NPS Western Regional Office historian in Seattle to assure adequacy of mitigations and recommend changes, edits and sometimes additional documentation. In contrast, "direct donations" to HDP involve a phone call with the HDP collections manager in Washington DC to discuss if the resource is historic, and communication to determine the catalog number and title for the documentation. Most CEQA documentations meet HABS/HAER/HALS formatting and archival guidelines*, and HDP would like to have them in the formal LoC collection, even if it's just one or two photos of a local historical building, this requires one copy of master negatives and one set of archival prints, one copy of any drawings on vellum, and one copy of the report.

HABS photograph, Top Hat Hot Dog Stand, Ventura, ten photos donated 2010

Myth #3: HABS/HAER/HALS documentation needs to be undertaken with "official" involvement.

Heritage Documentation Programs will accept direct donations from anyone willing to follow the stringent guidelines. This can be done by photographers, historians, or developers trying to get a jump on documentation mitigations that they know will be required on a future project. Since there is no better documentation program than HABS/HAER/HALS, having an architectural historian develop a scope and write a report, and having an architect and large format photographer begin the documentation fieldwork can save time, and time is money. If no historian is available to do a full HABS report, a HABS history-short-form can be filled out by anyone with access to basic historic information about the resource. The best time to document a historic resource is when it was built, the second best time is today; waiting for a moment sometime in the unknown future when the documentation is a contractually required mitigation, is tied to milestones in the project approval process, and needs to be signed off by the city will not produce a better archival document. We have done a number of documentations where "getting-it-over-with" was our client's main goal, but it saved time and money and made for a better documentation nonetheless. Win-Win.


PacTEL-HABS mount card-schaf_photo-04
HABS photograph, Pac Bell Building, San Francisco, donated before redevelopment 2011

We'll write more about unofficial donation documentations in a future blog post: HABS Mitigation for CEQA (Part 2: Can Sooner Also Be Better?)

We have created an  EXAMPLE OF MITIGATION  text to generally meet the documentation requirement of some CEQA environmental documents like MNDs and EIRs. These mitigations can also be used as a basis for creating NEPA and Section 106 mitigations to federal undertakings, but consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) will be required to determine the exact deliverables and required scope. 

*Preparing HABS/HAER/HALS Transmittal Guidelines available at:



Take a look at the Frequently Asked Questions section of our website if you’d like more information about HABS/HAER/HALS photography.

Stephen Schafer, Photographer
Ventura, California


New Book About 1500 Mission Street, San Francisco

Announcing the publication of the softcover version of the 1500 Mission Street Historic Building Documentation book.


112 Pages with the HABS-like, large format 4x5 black and white photos (enlarged for clarity), plans, historic photos and the narrative historic report. The book can be ordered from MagCloud at the link below or just look at the online preview or download the free digital version to your tablet.
1500 Mission Street Coca-Cola Building

By Stephen Schafer in Historic Reports and Photography

112 pages, published 6/18/2018

2017 Historic Building Documentation of the former Coca-Cola Bottling Company at 1500 Mission Street, San Fransisco
Stephen Schafer, Photographer
Ventura, California

MAD Stickers Ye Shall Find



HABS photographer MaDFLAWS 7 aspects of integrity
 7 Aspects of Integrity Photo 

We have been busy at the HABSPHOTO.com Industrial Complex designing swag for our students at APT, CPF and USC and everywhere we present our HABS/HAER/HALS slideshows and workshops.

We have some nice fresh 4" round MaD FLAWS stickers to help you remember the National Register 7 Aspects of Integrity.


And of course we still have oodles of our famous CEQA And Ye Shall Find bumper stickers too.

So if you're looking to spruce up your lunchbox,

or pimp your scooter,

give us a shout and let us know if we can stick you up.



CEQA and ye shall find sticker
CEQA and Ye Shall Find bumper sticker
by HABS photographer Stephen Schafer 
Stephen Schafer, Photographer
Ventura, California

New Book About San Francisco's Pier 70 Buildings

Announcing the publication of the softcover version of the San Francisco Pier 70 Historic Building Documentation book.


292 Pages with the HABS-like, digital color photos (enlarged for clarity), plans, historic photos and maps and the narrative historic report. The book can be ordered from MagCloud at the link below or just look at the online preview or download the free digital version to your tablet.
Pier 70 Historic Building Documentation

By Stephen Schafer in Historic Reports and Photography

292 pages, published 2/1/2018

Historic Documentation of Pier 70 in San Francisco, California.
Stephen Schafer, Photographer
Ventura, California

Photographing the First California HAER Documentation, HAER-CA-1 (again)





HAER-CA-1- AWSS fire pump 2 front facade plan view
San Francisco Fire Pump Station #2, Front Facade, Historic plan from HAER-CA-1.



San Francisco Fire Department: Pumping Station #2                   
Van Ness Avenue at Bay, San Francisco
San Francisco County

Jack E. Boucher, Photographer   August-September 1975  (Photos 1-53)

Stephen D. Schafer, Photographer  October 2017  (Photos 54-73) 

Things have changed since I was a kid in 1975. I had just moved from San Francisco to Ventura where I would soon start kindergarten. Jack Boucher, the main photographer at the Historic American Buildings Survey (known as HABS), had begun to photograph sites for a "new" heritage documentation program called the Historic American Engineering Record known as HAER. HAER was a founded in 1969 to document the vanishing technology, industry and engineering legacy of the United States as America's pioneering industries began their rapid conversion to electronics, computers, hardware and software. 



HAER-CA-1- Boucher general view
Oblique front view, HAER-CA-1, by Jack Boucher, 1975



The San Francisco Auxiliary Water Supply System (AWSS) was built "... to prevent the 1906 situation from recurring in a future earthquake of equivalent magnitude." The AWSS was meant to supply water to a network of special pipes and hydrants in case of another fire, first draining city cisterns, reservoirs, lakes and swimming pools, and then sucking in seawater from the bay if all sources of fresh water ware depleted. Two "earthquake proof" waterfront pump houses were constructed to use the bay as a water source using steam-driven boilers, pumps and generators to pump water into the AWSS. Fire Pumping Station #2 was built in 1912 and went online in 1913.




HABS-CA-1-54_Mount Card_L16-HAER Photograph by S Schafer-16
Digital Mount Card of HAER-CA-1-54 by Stephen Schafer, 2017



In 1975 the city planned to replace the 1912 era steam-driven pump turbines, replacing them with diesel engines, thereafter encasing the pumps and engines with metal compartments to contain the noise.


HAER-CA-1-69_photograph Boucher Schafer
HABS photograph, Original steam turbine, Boucher 1975    •   Diesel engine, Schafer, 2017

The boilers were abandoned and left in place as museum pieces along with the Italian marble electrical switchboard, and one of the pump turbines. The smokestack was demolished as part of the modernization.



HAER-CA-1 Boilers schafphoto
Sometimes there's no room to duplicate the exact view. Boilers, 1975/2017


While the exact nexus between the modernization and the HAER documentation by Jack Boucher in 1975 is unclear, Pumping Station #2 became the first site documented under the fledgling HAER program in California. The documentation included 23 black and white 5" x 7" large format field views of the interior and exterior of the Station, twenty eight copies of historic drawings, and two color transparencies of gauges on the turbines and switchboard.


HAER-CA-1-5-interior overview-016448pu
HABS-CA-1-5, AWSS interior overview by Jack Boucher, 1975



In 2016, the "earthquake proof" building was no match for 2017 California building codes, and was slated for yet another "modernization" to meet seismic standards that triggered Section 106 and CEQA Review. The abandoned boiler fronts were to remain while their guts were to be removed along with other interior alterations to meet seismic standards.




HAER-CA-1-63_Mount Card
HABS-CA-1-63, AWSS interior overview by Stephen Schafer, 2017



This created the need for a documentation mitigation to HABS/HAER/HALS standards to be transmitted as an addendum to the 1975 materials. New drawings and report were prepared by historical architecture firm Garavaglia Architecture in Downtown San Francisco and we were brought in to document the exterior and interior before changes were made. 





HAER-CA-1-56_context panorama HAER photograph
2-part panoramic context view of fuel tanks and Station. Schafer, 2017  (Photos 56 & 57)


While we focused on the areas of the structure where the impacts would manifest themselves visually, this also gave us the opportunity to duplicate a few of Jack Boucher's views from 1975, and to document the evolution (or lack thereof) that had taken place at the pumping station since 1975. We also wanted to round out the story and spend a little more time getting some exterior context views to explain the site. It's always an honor to photograph in the tripod divots of  generations of HABS/HAER photographers before us, especially Jack Boucher and Jet Lowe who literally wrote the books on HABS/HAER photography. We will be documenting Filoli in Woodside California in 2018, recreating Jack's 1971 documentation of the Filoli mansion and gardens when they were first taken over by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


Take a look at the Frequently Asked Questions section of our website if you’d like more details about HABS/HAER/HALS photography that meets the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Architectural and Engineering Documentation.
Stephen Schafer, Photographer
Ventura, California



Archival Photo Mount Cards and Negative Sleeves for HABS/HAER/HALS Documentation

This is a resource page for those doing Historic American Buildings Survey photography and having a hard time finding the archival negative envelopes and slotted print mount cards that are required by HABS, HAER and HALS for transmission to the Library of Congress.

All the specifications for transmittal of archival negatives and prints for the HABS, HAER, HALS collections are available in a downloadable PDF from the NPS at the HDP website: https://www.nps.gov/hdp/standards/Transmittal.pdf    or by doing a web search for: HABS DOCUMENTATION FOR TRANSMITTAL

But the government won’t tell you what brand to buy or where to get them. You’d think these slotted print mount cards would be ubiquitous but the archival Lignin-free archival photo mount cards for 4x5 and 5x7 prints are nearly impossible to find if you don’t have a link to the tragically out of date website of Conservation Resources: www.ConservationResources.com    CLICK on: PHOTO MOUNT CARDS. The three-hole-punched brown heavy cardstock cards are available slotted for fiber contact prints or without slots for cover sheets for the HABS/HAER/HALS reports.

HABS HAER HALS Library of congress archival photo mount cards with slots
Screen capture of the dated Conservation Resources website August 2017  •  Archival 8 1⁄2" x 11" photo mount card

For the 5x7 buffered negative envelopes that are required by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), and the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) we go to the far better University Products website: www.UniversityProducts.com

If you are transmitting 4x5” or 5x7” negatives to Heritage Documentation Programs of the National Park Service then you will need the negative sleeves in 5 3⁄8" x 7 3⁄8” size for both 4x5 and 5x7 negatives. 


University Products HABS 5x7 buffered negative envelopes-2017
Screen capture of the University Products website in Aug 2017 • Archival negative sleeves  5 3⁄8" x 7 3⁄8"

There’s more information about HABS/HAER/HALS photography at my main website www.HABSPHOTO.com

Good Luck Documenting!

Slotted photo mount card for HABS HAER HALS photograph
HABS photograph, Sample of a HABS 5x7 print inserted in a Photo Mount Card

 Please Note:

1. Only use UPS, FedEx, or DHL to send surveys to Washington, DC
The HABS/HAER/HALS office moved to the Main Interior Building in Washington, DC. in April 2017. All U.S. Postal Service (USPS) mail sent to Main Interior is subject to irradiation. That process is likely to damage survey materials. There is concern about the prospect of damaged negatives or hand-drawn sheets that can't be recreated, but irradiated paper and CD/DVDs would also be a problem.
2. New HDP shipping address (starting April 10, 2017)
Heritage Documentation Programs
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW, Room 7408
Washington, DC 20240