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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Built in America

[Detail] Coos Bay Bridge, North Bend, Oregon.

The materials available in Built in America: The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) 1933-Present, provide an opportunity to develop critical thinking and creative writing skills. Descriptions and images of various buildings and structures in these collections provide the basis for research projects. Meanwhile, historic homes can serve as the catalyst for creative writing exercises and a discussion regarding the homes of authors such as Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Poe.

Research Project

Many of the materials in these collections provide examples of how to document the historical significance of a building or structure. Select a local building such as a school, church, retail center, or private residence and research its history. Resources might include personal interviews, newspaper clippings, or public records that are available for review through local government agencies. Document the historical significance of the building through the use of photographs, written descriptions, and any other suitable methods. The following questions provide a starting point.

  • In what year was the building constructed?
  • What is the architectural style of the building?
  • Who owned the building?
  • What was its original purpose? What is its current use?
  • What was the relationship between its construction and its purpose?
  • How does it compare to other buildings in the community?
  • How has the building changed over time (additions, natural disasters, renovations, etc.)?