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NARA Coast to Coast: Federal Agency Footprints in Your Area?

by on November 10, 2010


I know I promised to post Part 2 about Emigration Records at the National Archives at Philadelphia as the next NARA Coast to Coast post, but I’ve gotten a bit stuck in my research and other work has gotten in the way.  (Has that ever happened to you before?)  I am definitely going to persevere and post Part 2 soon, but I wanted to share this post from Kathleen Crosman, an archivist at the National Archives at Seattle with you in the meantime.  Thanks for understanding and enjoy Kathleen’s post!

Have you been reading all the news stories about unexploded bombs being found in housing developments and wondering what might be in your backyard? Have you heard that there was a Nike missile site near your house? Do you live on part of what was a military base during World War II? Is there a state or local park nearby that preserves all or part of a former federal installation? Are you a local history buff? Then you might be interested in the real property disposal case files for former federally owned facilities.

These case files can be used to research the history of former federal sites, to illuminate the history of what may now be a public park, or to get clues on how land was used over time. They can be a boon to local history buffs who learn that there may be a former federal site in the area, like the Zillah Bombing Range in Washington or the Five Points Field in Texas, but are unable to find any additional information. They can also be helpful to local and state governments and non-profits which are now maintaining lighthouses or parts of former military sites. While these files seldom provide information about the building or property while it was in active use, they often provide essential clues to other federal records or to local records that can help to fill in the blanks about a site’s history.

Washington Shipyard Brochure Cover

Washington Shipyard Brochure Cover

The real property disposal case files track exchange or sale of former federally owned buildings and property such as military bases and airfields, defense plants, depots, court houses, post offices, hospitals, forts, housing, lighthouses, and industrial property. They are primarily textual but often include photographs, maps, and architectural drawings. Once the Federal agency that owned a facility determined that they did not need it anymore, the property was first offered to other Federal agencies for use, then to state or local governments for grant or sale. Property was offered for sale to the general public by auction or sealed bid if there was no governmental interest. Every regional archives holds these files for the states in its region. Real property disposal case files were created by many different agencies, but most will be found in one of these agencies.

Bureau of Yards and Docks, RG 71
Farm Credit Administration, RG 103
Public Buildings Service, RG 121
General Services Administration, RG 269
War Assets Administration, RG 270
Federal Property Resources Service, RG 291

Washington Shipyard Site Plan

Washington Shipyard Site Plan

Washington Shipyard Appraisal Table

Washington Shipyard Appraisal Table

If you search for “real property case files” on NARA’s Archival Research Catalog (ARC) you will get a list of all of the related files currently described on ARC. Or you can simply email the regional archives that handles the state where the property is located to see what they might have. Please note that disposal case files are not transferred to NARA for at least 25 years so recent activity will not be available. To find out about former federally owned property in Idaho, Oregon, Washington send an email to the National Archives at Seattle at Seattle.Archives@nara.gov. You can find out more about the Seattle regional archives at our website: http://www.archives.gov/pacific-alaska/seattle/.


Comments

Phyllis M. Boyse February 23, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Is there any locations on the internet of pictures of military bases during WWII. For instance, my father was stationed at the Greenville Army Air Base in Greenville SC, from 1944-1945. Is there any pictures of the base at that time available?
Thank You
Phyllis M. Boyse
genealogybuf@yahoo.com

Corinne February 25, 2011 at 11:18 am

Hi Phyllis,

Thank you for your comment. There are no photos of the Greenville Army Air Base available on the National Archives Online Public Access webpage, but there are records of the base at our National Archives at Atlanta location.

You can email the National Archives at Atlanta at atlanta.archives@nara.gov or visit their website at http://www.archives.gov/southeast/public/. Good luck with you research!

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