Skip to content

Search Collections

Frank Chouteau Brown's Historic American Buildings Survey architectural collection


This collection includes the office records and unfinished drawings generated by Brown during his administration of the Massachusetts district of HABS. It contains measured drawings for numerous pre-Civil War buildings as well as thumbnail perspective sketches which reveal as much about graphic technique as they do about architecture.


Collection Name
Frank Chouteau Brown's Historic American Buildings Survey architectural collection
Collection Code
Preserving American architecture on paper is the purpose of the Historic American Building Survey (HABS). It was established in 1933 when the Civil Works Administration, with the National Park Service acting as administrator, created the survey as a systematic national plan for documenting architecture. In Massachusetts, Frank Chouteau Brown was nominated for the office of District Administrator by the Boston Society of Architects and was awarded the position. William Sumner Appleton, founder of SPNEA (now Historic New England) had a close friendship with Brown, and they were both ardent preservationists. Each made a distinct contribution to the movement: Brown prepared measured drawings of endangered buildings while Appleton collected architectural fragments that rendered information about the building's character and construction.\n \n This collection of Brown's HABS office records supplements the Library & Archives' collection of blueprints and original HABS drawings.
Finding Aid Info
Finding aid available in print in the Library & Archives.
Collection Type
Architectural and Cartographic Materials
Description Level
Custodial History
The collection was donated to Historic New England (then the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, or SPNEA) by Mrs. Brown. It had been stored in Frank Chouteau Brown's original storage boxes from the time of its creation until the time of donation.
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Frank Chouteau Brown.
Reference Code

Historical/Biographical Note

Frank Chouteau Brown was born on January 3, 1876, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When he was twenty years old, Brown began his career as a draftsman in the office of Thomas C. Plant in Minneapolis. After moving to Boston in 1902, he joined the firm of James T. Kelley, whose reputation was based on designing fine homes. After 1905, Brown established his own practice with a specialty in domestic architecture and large suburban estates in New England. Brown was best known for his interest in historic buildings, but he worked as an architect on over ten well-known commissions. These commissions were largely residential, but they also include a projected plan for a Brookline country club from the 1910s. Surprisingly, each of these is in Tudor Revival style, possibly explained by his interest in Shakespearean drama.

Brown also wrote a great deal about architecture, including several books, such as "New England Houses" (1919). He also served as editor of "Architectural Review." He was a close friend of William Sumner Appleton, founder of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (known today as Historic New England) and was a member of the editorial board of "Old-Time New England." He was appointed Massachusetts District Administrator for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) in 1934. Brown was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects. He died on November 18, 1947, in Boston.

Withey , Henry F. and Elsie Rathburn Withey. Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (deceased), vol. 81. Los Angeles: New Age Publishing Co. (1956).


This collection is arranged into nine series: I. Introduction, II. Survey Files, III. Miscellaneous Correspondence, IV. Administrative Records, V. New England Correspondence, VI. Papers and Treatises, VII. Garden Project, VIII. Measured Notes, and IX. Sketchbooks.

Record details

Brown, Frank Chouteau, 1876-1947 (Architect)
Historic American Buildings Survey (Agency)
Other Organizations
Historic American Buildings Survey
Descriptive Terms
architecture (discipline)
historic houses
Material Type
architectural drawings (visual works)
measured drawings
plans (orthographic projections)
preliminary sketches (sketches)
surveys (documents)
Boston (Suffolk county, Massachusetts)
Massachusetts (United States)
New England (United States) [general region]
This collection is available for research.
Related Items
Historic American Buildings Survey architectural collection, 1930s — This collection includes the measured drawings created by HABS.
Frank Chouteau Brown professional architectural collection — This collection includes materials created by Brown that are not connected with HABS.
Architects - General - Trade Cards - Folder 3 — This file in the Ephemera collection (EP001) includes many of Frank Chouteau Brown's trade cards.
Publications Referencing This Collection
Floyd, Margaret Henderson. (1974). The Use of Measured Drawings as a Tool for Historic Preservation.. Talk delivered to the Colonial Society of Massachusetts..
Rhoads, William B.. (1977). The Colonial Revival. New York, NY: Garland Publications.
Williams, Judy. Frank Chouteau Brown, FAIA and Measured Drawings as a Tool for Historic Preservation. unpublished.
Language Note
This collection is entirely in English.
Preferred Citation
[Item identification]. Frank Chouteau Brown's Historic American Buildings Survey architectural collection (AR023). Historic New England Library & Archive.
Processing Information
Finding aid created by Paul Glassman, December, 1983, and updated by Abigail Cramer, April, 2013.
Rules and Conventions
This finding aid is DACS compliant.

Browse Collection

Use the links below to browse up and down the collection hierarchy from the current record.