During the early part of the nineteenth century, actual building permits were not required for the erection of either residential, commercial, or institutional structures in New Orleans. The only legal necessity was that the owner have the lines of his lot(s) certified by the Surveyor. Later, after 1856, the law (ordinance 3192 O.S.) also required that the Surveyor certify that the lot was filled to the proper grade before construction could begin. This ordinance also made it the duty of the Suveyor, Street Commissioner and Police officers to report to the Mayor on any structure "in a ruinous condition" or any structure that "might, by falling, impair the security of passage through the public way, or give occasion to any accident. . . ."
Ordinance #6022, Administrative Series, passed on June 25, 1879, was the first to demand that permits be obtained (from the Board of Health) after the certificate of grade had been issued by the Surveyor. Section 12 of the ordinance states: "No lot shall be used for building purposes in the city of New Orleans until the same shall have been inspected by the City Surveyor, who shall give a certificate that such lot is filled above the level of the banquette and graded as to be effectually drained into the street gutters, and upon such certificate all owners, agents, contractors and builders are required to obtain permits from the board of health before commencing the erection of any building."
Additionally this ordinance named the city agencies responsible for enforcing the ordinance: "the Board of Health and its agents, officers and employees, and the members of the Crescent City Police and the Recorders of the several districts of this city." The ordinance also set a fee of twenty-five cents for each permit issued.
This volume was thought by an earlier cataloger to have been maintained by the Department of Police. However, internal evidence is unclear as to what agency -- the Surveyor, Police Department, Department of Health -- actually kept this volume. It may even have been used by various agencies over time.
The volume is arranged in chronological order. The notations vary throughout the volume; the earliest entries generally record the inspection of lots to verify the proper grade and reports by the police of property in disrepair or otherwise in violation of building regulations; the date of the inspection or report, the address of the structure, and, sometimes, but not always, the owner's name are given. Marginal notes indicate the action taken ("Served notice," "Certificate issued," "report made to the Mayor," "permit issued," etc.). By late 1881, the entries become more uniform, giving the name of the owner and/or builder, and the location, building material, style, and roof type of each structure. In some cases the estimated value of each project is also given. In addition to permits the volume also contains some complaints by members of the community or inspectors relating to derelict and dangerous buildings and properties.