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San Francisco Bay Area Architects and Architecture: Online Resources

A bibliographic research guide to finding information on Bay Area architects and architecture.

Periodical Indexes

Detailed information on Bay Area architecture is often available in periodicals or journals. Periodical titles owned by the UCB Libraries are listed in the library catalogs, but for an index to the contents of the periodicals, you must use a periodical index. Although some periodical indexes or databases are now available online, many of those for historical information are only available in print. 

Use the subject headings/keywords identified from your topic search to locate articles. If you're searching for information on a particular architect or architectural firm, look directly under that name. Search online indexes using "subject word" or "title (keyword) word," or search "corporate name" when you are searching for a firm name or name of an institutional building, such as a church.

The major periodical indexes for locating information on the history of Bay Area architecture are listed below. For a more complete list of indexes, see the resources compiled in the Architecture or History of Architecture research guides.

Public Records

Public records are important resources in researching buildings and places. Local government agencies often maintain useful records, such as building, water or utility permits, that indicate when a building was built or altered, include plans and/or drawings, and provide information on ownership or designer. Deeds and tax assessment records also help identify who lived in or owned a building. Plat maps and city block books show land boundaries and street layouts. Older records may be sent to local historical societies or public library special collections. Most state libraries also maintain archival collections of records, and federal agencies also have materials related to historic buildings and places. Refer to the section on Archives for a list of local collections, or search the Online Archive of California. The following sources offer advice on locating and using public records.


Maps are useful for tracing the development and dating of a neighborhood. Plat maps - such as fire insurance maps - show a variety of details, including actual lot boundaries, special uses, building materials and building footprints. The Earth Sciences & Map Library and Bancroft Library have an extraordinary collection. 

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are large-scale plans containing data used originally to estimate the potential risk for urban structures, and include an outline of each building, the size, shape and construction materials, heights, and function of structures, and location of windows and doors. The maps also give street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, building use, and house and block numbers. They are an excellent source on the history, growth, and development of American cities, towns, and neighborhoods.


Newspapers are an often overlooked source of information on local architecture. Most public libraries have collections of newspapers from their own cities, either in subject clipping files or on microfilm. Many Bay Area newspapers have been collected and selectively indexed at the Bancroft Library on campus.


Print Indexes and other resources


City Directories

City Directories are good sources for identifying individuals who lived or owned a structure, or businesses which operated at a particular address, in a particular year or years. Many city directories were produced annually and offer cross listings so you can search either by address or name. Most state and public libraries, as well as local historical societies, collect city directories for their region. See the Archives section for a listing of Bay Area organizations with collections of city directories, or check the library catalogs under subject word [name of city]--Directories for additional resources in the UC Libraries. BerkeleyOakland and San Francisco Public Libraries maintain special collections, as does the UCB Bancroft Library. Below is a very select list of examples of early city directories and collections.


These sources are useful for locating images of the architect or building you are researching. See also the section on Archives and Special Resources.