Boston Building Department photographic collection, 1920s-1930s

Collection Type

  • Photography





Browse Collection

  • Boston Building Department photographic collection, 1920s-1930s (current record)


The Boston Building Department Photographic Collection includes over 1,000 original prints and negatives by W. W. K. Campbell. The prints document buildings that had come to the Department's attention as a result of complaints about their safety. Many items possess attached documentation regarding the nature of the complaint and the action taken to correct it.

All communities incorporated into Boston, as well as those in the downtown area, are represented by images, such as South Boston, Charlestown, East Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester, Brighton, and Chelsea.

The collection is a record of urban decay and building traditions associated with working class neighborhoods that are not well documented. Photographs of many late-eighteenth and early-nineteeth-century structures show that they had fallen on hard times. For the most part, the images tend to be strictly documentary, though there are occasional glimpses of the surrounding streets and inhabitants.

Source: Guide to the Library and Archives, 9.


Descriptive Terms

municipal government
historic buildings
commercial buildings
urban areas
urban blight
working class
black-and-white prints (photographs)
black-and-white negatives

Physical Description

ca. 1,000 photographic prints : black-and-white
ca. 1,000 photographic negatives : black-and-white

Collection Code


Collection Name

Boston Building Department photographic collection, 1920s-1930s

Reference Code



South Boston (Boston, Suffolk county, Massachusetts) [neighborhood]
Charlestown (Boston, Suffolk county, Massachusetts) [neighborhood]
East Boston (Boston, Suffolk county, Massachusetts) [neighborhood]
Roxbury (Boston, Suffolk county, Massachusetts) [neighborhood]
Dorchester (Boston, Suffolk county, Massachusetts) [neighborhood]
Brighton (Boston, Suffolk county, Massachusetts) [neighborhood]
Chelsea (Suffolk county, Massachusetts)

Record Details


Campbell, W. W. K., Mr. (Photographer)

Material Type

black-and-white prints (photographs)
black-and-white negatives

Description Level


Historical/Biographical Note

Historical/Biographical Note

W. W. K. Campbell worked as a photographer for the Boston Building Department in the 1920s and 1930s.

Source: Guide to the Library and Archives, 9.



The collection is arranged geographically.