GeoHistory Resources

Philadelphia Streets Department

Philadelphia Streets Department Surveys


Identifier Explanation

Various lettered prefixes and suffixes in each plan’s unique identifier indicate various groups of plans in the collection. These include:

HP (Historic Plan). These are some of the oldest plans in the City Plans collection, with one original dating to the 1780s, and hundreds of others from the first half of the 19th century. The numbers of these plans do not correspond to any of the current City Plan areas, although old index maps have been found that include them. Most of these are "mounted plans," with the plan drawn on paper that has been mounted on a cloth backing. Many are in remarkably good condition considering their age. Almost all of these plans are now stored and inventoried at Philadelphia City Archives.

MTD (Mounted Plan) tubes, with numbers corresponding to the current City Plan areas. These plans are still consulted occasionally by City Plans Unit staff. Some of the oldest of these plans, where duplicates were available, are also stored at Philadelphia City Archives.

CP (City Plan) tubes, with numbers corresponding to current City Plan areas, are still used constantly by the Streets staff. Most of these plans are either blueprints, photocopies, or "tracings" - original plans or copies of old plans, drawn in ink on a wax-impregnated linen that is extremely durable.

RC (Red Can) tubes, including many railroad and street rail ways plans, and other plans that are not official City Plans.

JP (Jury Plans), provided to "Road Juries" or "Boards of View," who were groups of citizens impaneled to determine the damages to be awarded to property owners (or benefits to be assessed against them) for the construction of new streets, sewers and other public works through their property.

FF (Flat Files), with plans grouped by geography or by other criteria.

FLAT, small mounted plans called "flats," because they have been stored flat rather than rolled with other plans in the tubes.

RRSF, Road Records Search Files in the central City Plans office.

SD (Survey District), indicating plans found in one of the subsidiary District offices located in various parts of the city; the number following the letters indicates the specific office. Each of these offices have different filing systems, so the numbering and naming of these plans varies, but in all cases tries to indicate where the original is stored.

Field Explanations

Physical format is the height x width, in inches, of the original object. Most numbers are rounded to the nearest inch.

Scale is given where it was noted on the plan or could be easily determined.

Work Title has been transcribed from the plan, with the sometimes archaic or irregular capitalization regularized. Where a plan has no title, this is noted, and a description is provided.

Date is ideally, the year the map was drawn. The clearest indication of this is the survey return date; or when the authorization of the plan and its approval occur within the same year. When this information is not provided, the approval date has been used, or an approximate (“circa�) year has been used. Many titles include various dates, including the plan's authorization (most often a resolution or ordinance of the City Councils, or an Act of Assembly from the Pennsylvania Legislature); and its approval (most commonly by confirmation of the City Board of Surveyors. Some plans also include the date of approval of this or other municipal Boards and then confirmation by the County Court of Quarter Sessions.

Area is provided for most plans, including township or ward where applicable, and sometimes the streets by which the plan is bounded.

Creator or Surveyor is the City official who signed the plan, or where the information is available, the draftsman who drew the plan.

Map Features include a variety of keywords that can be searched. The level of detail provided here varies, and it can be assumed that all the maps have more information than listed here.