The Rich History of HABS/HAER/HALS, Headframes, and Holiday Cards

Our annual holiday cards for Preservation Design Works (PVN) showcase interesting architectural and engineering drawings from our projects. In 2012, we honored Leroy S. Buffington’s iron building construction patent from 1888 for Meghan Elliott’s presentation at the Skyscraper Symposium. In 2013, we highlighted a line drawing of C.A.P. Turner’s Bridge 92297, a single-span reinforced concrete flat slab bridge that was formerly located on Mississippi Street adjacent to Cayuga Avenue in Saint Paul. This year’s drawing is particularly special since Casie Radford, a preservation architect at PVN, created the drawing for the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER).

What is HABS and its partner programs HAER and HALS?

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) began during the Great Depression in December 1933, when Charles E. Peterson, University of Minnesota alumnus and National Park Service (NPS) historian, submitted a proposal for one thousand out-of-work architects to spend ten weeks documenting "America's antique buildings." Having operated under various administrative authorities for its first two years, HABS became a permanent program of the NPS in July 1934 and was formally authorized by Congress as part of the Historic Sites Act of 1935.

The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) was founded in 1969 to parallel HABS, providing for documentation of engineering works and industrial sites. In October 2000, the Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) was permanently established to document historic landscapes.

Casie Radford’s Drawing of the HAER Drawing of the El Paso Lode Headframe

Casie Radford’s Drawing of the HAER Drawing of the El Paso Lode Headframe

The HABS/HAER/HALS collections at the Library of Congress have grown to constitute a unique, valuable, and extensive repository of knowledge about American buildings, industries, engineering works, and landscapes. Today's documentation is produced primarily by students pursuing degrees in architecture and in history, and the HABS, HAER and HALS programs have proven to be an important training ground for several generations of architects, engineers and historians.

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) collections are among the largest and most heavily used in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. The collections document achievements in architecture, engineering, and landscape design in the United States and its territories through a comprehensive range of building types, engineering technologies, and landscapes. Ongoing programs of the National Park Service have recorded America's built environment in multi-format surveys comprising more than 556,900 measured drawings, large-format photographs, and written histories for more than 38,600 historic structures and sites dating from Pre-Columbian times to the twentieth century. [1]

Immediately upon my employment with Anderson Hallas Architects (formerly Andrews and Anderson Architects), in Golden, Colorado, I was given the El Paso Lode (Gold King Mine) Headframe HAER drawing project. On-site investigations and field measurements were completed prior to my start on the project. From the field measurements and photos, I created the El Paso Lode Headframe drawing with ink on mylar. Draft iterations were sent to the National Park Service for review prior to the final submittal. The history for the mine and headframe was completed by another group. 

The El Paso Lode Headframe [2] is a part of the Gold King Mine, which was built by Robert Womack in 1890 and became the focus of the gold rush in 1893. The Gold King Mine is located about 1.5 miles east of Cripple Creek and served as the discovery mine for the Cripple Creek Mining District. This area became one of the most productive mining areas in United States History. The headframe on site today is one that was constructed sometime between 1920 and 1936 according to two different sources. The original headframe at the Gold King Mine was moved to the nearby Hoosier Mine and is still in place today.

“Womack's mine came into the ownership of the El Paso Gold King Mining Company, who constructed the original headframe and surface facilities in order to expand mining operations at the Gold King Mine. The Gold King Mine operated nearly continuously from 1890 to 1928, when the company closed the mine and removed the original head frame and other surface features. In 1936 the company refurbished the mine, including construction of the head frame and other surface features. The Gold King Mine remained in operation until 1954, and it was primarily a tourist attraction in the final four years of operation.” [3]

[1] Text and photos from Photos by Kurt P. Schweigert.

[2] Headframe: The structural frame above the mine shaft.

[3] “El Paso Lode, Adjacent to Highway 67, 0.5 mile east of Cripple Creek, Cripple Creek, Teller County, CO.” Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC). 17 December 2014. <>.

Holiday CardsPVN Staff