Austin (Tex.). Public Works Department Records
An Inventory of the Collection
Article 119 of the 1874 General Ordinances of the City of Austin mandates that the "Mayor may appoint, by and with the advice and consent of the Board of Aldermen, a City Engineer and Surveyor,...." Article 120 spelled out the duties of the City Engineer and Surveyor which included establishing "throughout the city initial points and monuments, at least one to each square of four blocks, and from such points to extend the surveys of the city. And it shall also be his duty, when called upon to so do. to locate, establish and survey all lines of property, public or private, in this city, and to make all surveys and calculations for grading or other work to be done on streets, alleys, squares, bridges, culverts, sewers, and other public places in this city." As the city grew so did the responsibilities of the City Engineer and by 1927 the Engineering Department, under the supervision of the City Engineer, was responsible for the Engineers Office, Streets and Bridges Division, Sanitary Sewer Division, Trash and Garbage Division, Parks Division, and Cemetery Division. In 1928 the Drafting Division was added and in the 1930s Inspection Division (Building, Plumbing and Gas), Municipal Airport Division, Equipment Maintenance Division, Public Market Division and Weights-Measures Inspection Division were added. During the 1940s the department name changed to Engineering and Public Works Department and then eventually to just the Public Works Department with Engineering becoming a division of that department.
Starting in the 1960 some of the divisions were reorganized into their own departments (Parks and Recreation Department, Code Compliance Department, and Resource Recovery Department). City Council established a separate Engineering Department in 1972 that was responsible for the design and supervision of construction of public works type projects for other City departments; review of all subdivision construction activity; maintaining permanent city records of plans and maps. This department was consolidated back into Public Works in 1980. In 1985 the description in the City of Austin Financial Plan (Budget) stated that the Public Works Department plans and manages the department's annual budget and Capital Improvement Program. The Construction Inspection Division supervised the construction by private contractors of major street and drainage projects and inspects all cuts made in City streets by public and private utilities. The Street and Bridge Division maintained the street and drainage systems. The Cemetery Division supervised and maintained the five City-owned cemeteries. The Public Buildings Division provided architectural and engineering services to other City departments and supervised construction and maintenance of public buildings and facilities. The Real Estate Management Division was responsible for the appraisal, acquisition and management of real property for City departments. Engineering provided engineering services to City departments. Some of these responsibilities have also been separated out since 1985, such as the Office of Real Estate Services, the Contract Management Department and cemetery management is currently (2015) part of the Parks and Recreation Department.
Today (2015), the City of Austin's Public Works Department designs, manages, and inspects major capital improvement projects; promotes bicycle, pedestrian, safe routes to school, and urban trail projects; and maintains the City's network of trails, roadways, and bridges once they are built.
Complete descriptions of the responsibilities of each of the divisions within the Engineering/Public Works Department can be found in the Annual Reports submitted to the City Manager (General Collection A 352.9 AuEn33a).
In case there is any confusion, a completely separate Board of Public Works was formed in 1890 when the citizens of Austin voted for a bond that would finance the building of a water and light system, including a dam, a reservoir, and distribution systems. In 1895, after the completion of the dam and the power house, the Board of Public Works turned the system over to the City Council and Water and Light Commissioners were elected by voters to oversee the systems.
The Public Works Department Records include records from the administrative office of the Engineering Department/Public Works Department as well as records from the divisions within the Department.
The Administrative Office series (1927 to 1964) consists of materials related to the entire Engineering/Public Works Department. The Correspondence subseries contains interdepartmental and interdivisional correspondence dated 1931 from 1947. Most of the memorandum are from the director to division heads within the department or from the director to the City Manager, City Attorney or the Chief of Police and concern requests for information/data, financial issues and discussions about citizen complaints regarding streets, curbs, etc.
The Departmental Monthly Reports subseries (1927 to 1964) of the Administrative Office series contains the reports sent from the City Engineer to the Austin City Manager on a monthly basis to report on the activities of each division of the Engineering Department (later Public Works Department). The reports are very detailed. The Streets and Bridges Division reported the number and name of blocks graded; graded and rolled; graded, graveled, rolled and sprinkled; paved; street and bridge repair; amount of concrete walks, curbs, gutters and driveways were constructed; number of feet drain pipe manufactured and installed; gutters cleaned and number of cubic yards of materials removed; number of loads hauled and the amount of gas, oil and grease used to do so; and incidental services. Parks Division recorded the number of trees and shrubs trimmed; and clearing and improvements to parks. Cemetery Division information includes the number of internments by cemetery and maintenance work on the cemeteries. Engineering/Surveying/Drafting Division reported the type of survey work (lines and grades, grades only, lines only, levels only, cross sections, construction stakes, surveys, plans and profiles, and detail maps) and where performed; utility space assignments (sewer, gas, electric); street sign work including new post signs, repaired signs, curb signs repainted; and the house number changes with the occupant name, old house number and street and new house number and street listed. The Trash and Haul report from the Trash and Garbage Division included the number of loads sent to the incinerator and dump; animals incinerated; and complaints. The Sewer Division documented where and how much construction work was completed; amount of maintenance to systems was required; address of where sewer constructions were made; and the number of gallons of sewage was treated and pumped at the Disposal Plant. Plumbing Division reported the number of permits issued; the number of applications for connections and the address of each connection as well as location of tanks and pumps at filling stations inspected. The Building Inspection Division reported the name, address and cost listed on applications for building permits; name and address of building permits recommended for both new and additions, alteration and repairs (addresses for some years); and the number of inspections as well as the number . The Equipment Maintenance Division submitted a garage report with the number pieces serviced, hours required, cost of parts and tires and tubes for each City department. Included in the Weights and Measures Inspection report are the number of scales, balances, measures, weights and pumps that were sealed without adjusting, adjusted and sealed, condemned and seized and condemned for repairs. The Public Market Division reported on the maintenance of the market and the number of stalls rented. The Municipal Airport Division reported on the number of planes and passengers arriving and departing by commercial airline name, civilian planes and the Army & Navy as well as the number of hours of student flying time. Building Maintenance/Building and Grounds Division was added in the 1940s and reported the repairs and painting to City buildings performed. From 1947 to 1949 there are also monthly reports summaries for each year, 1947 is also the year the name of the monthly reports changed from Engineering Department Monthly Reports to Department of Public Works Monthly Reports. The Planning Division was added to the Public Works Department in 1951 and the activity report in the monthly report lists the number of subdivisions considered by the plan commission (number, acreage, no. of lots, linear feet of streets, approved, approved on condition, disapproved, withdrawn); zoning appeals for variances (considered, granted, granted on condition, denied, withdrawn, dismissed); zoning changes in front of the Board of Adjustment and City Council; number of proposed subdivisions studied in the Planning Division; and status of projects (name of project, requested by, plan % complete). The Planning Division reports were no longer part of the monthly reports starting in the second half of 1953. The Sewer Division reports ceased in the later part of 1954. In 1960 the divisions reported upon were the Municipal Airport, Building and Grounds, Cemetery, Engineering, Inspection, Parks, Public Scales, Street and Bridge and Sanitation; although by the end of 1960 the Municipal Airport report was no longer included.
The Engineering Division series (1892-1956, 1975-1978) contains materials created by the City Engineer prior to the creation of the Engineering Division, as well as records created by the division of Public Works and materials created by the short-lived Engineering Department created in 1972 and absorbed back into Public Works in 1980. The Survey Field Books subseries is comprised of approximately 400 small leather-bound notebooks dated from 1892 to the 1950s, with the majority of the books covering the years 1909 through the 1920s. The books contain survey information for streets, sewers, drainage, curbs, parks, bridges and other Public Works projects for the City of Austin. In addition to the survey numbers pertaining to streets, sewers, curbs and walks there are many small maps, some in great detail, that show boundary lines, street routes, building outlines, property lines, etc. There are several concurrently numbered series of field books because there were separate series for Field Survey books, Curb and Walk books, Sewer Survey books as well as, what looks like, personal books kept by individual surveyors. The Sewer Survey books appear to relate to the construction of the sewer system in Austin. Many of the books contain the name of the surveyor as well as an index to the content of the book in addition to the recorded information. See the attached document link in the Inventory section for further information about the field books.
The Inspection Division series (1931-1945) contains two ledgers related to plumbing and gas inspections. One ledger, with entries dated 1931 through 1939, contains the names and license numbers of master and journey man gas-fitters. The second ledger was maintained by the plumbing inspector, who was responsible for testing and inspecting all plumbing and gas installations in the City, with entries dated from 1941 to 1945. The entries are organized by street name and include date, address, name of the plumber and inspection number
The Street, Sewer and Bridge Division series (1913-1929) consists of two subseries: Administrative and Photographic Images. The Administrative subseries contains a ledger labeled "General Record of City Engineer for Street, Sewer and Bridge Department" with entries for payroll, equipment and supply payments dating from 1913 to 1914 as well as yearly inventories of office fixtures, tools, equipment and stock (pipes and fittings) for the sewer division dating from 1922 to 1926. The Photographic contains a single photo album with nine black and white photographs of the construction of the storm sewer system and three B&W photographs of the sanitary sewer main crossing the Colorado River (Lake Austin) from July through October, 1929.
Restrictions on Access
Open to all users.
Restrictions on Use
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
Austin (Tex.). Public Works Department Records (AR.1991.014). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
The majority of this collection was received at the Austin History Center as records transfer from the Public Works Department. A few of the ledgers and some correspondence were donated by a former City of Austin employee (DO/1977/115) along with records from the Water & Light Department and the Austin Police Department - these items are identified in the Inventory listing.
Finding aid created and encoded by Molly Hults in 2015. The field book inventory was created by Wayne Roberson in 1995.
Detailed Description of the Collection