Are you looking for records about the history of housing, lending, and development in American cities? The National Archives hold many records related these issues, and you can find valuable information in a number of our record groups, including:



In addition to researching federal records, you might also want to research on the state or local level, and many institutions hold collections about individual cities or regions. The National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC - has awarded digitization grants to several organizations across the United States that hold such records, and many of those digital collections are available online for researchers to use.


Here are some of the digital collections related to the development of urban areas in America that were made possible by NHPRC grant funding:


  • The Law Library of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, has digitized the Mt. Laurel cases, a collection of legal documents related to a series of cases on affordable housing in New Jersey, and they have also digitized “reports and extensive hearing transcripts of the Lilley Commission, a state commission formed to examine the causes of the civil disorders in Newark and other New Jersey cities in 1967.” Find out more at these sites:


  • The Getty Research Institute has digitized two collections of photographs that “document the growth of housing and urban development in California and the Midwest from 1936 until 1997.” The collections include the Leonard Nadel Papers (Nadel photographed the workers of the Bracero Program) and the Julius Shulman Photography Archive (Shulman is best known for his architectural photographs). Learn more about this digitization project here:


  • The University Library Special Collections Department at the University of Illinois, Chicago has digitized “photographs of historic Chicago sites, streets, neighborhoods and buildings” from its James S. Parker collection (Parker owned a commercial photography firm in Chicago and managed legal photography for the city) and the Chicago Photographic collection, which “depicts nearly all of Chicago's neighborhoods over several decades, serving as a significant temporal and pictorial documentation of the many changes in Chicago's urban landscape, built environment, and industrial economy, especially during the mid 20th century.” You can find out more at their website:


For more information about digital projects funded by the NHPRC's digitization grants, see these posts:

Digitization Projects Made Possible by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)

Civil War Records - Digitization Projects Supported by the NHPRC