HistoryQuestDC is an interactive online map that contains all of the historical data I have collected on the extant (standing), addressed buildings of Washington DC . . . and much more.

I started mapping my historical buildings data around 2006 and within a few years the DC Historic Preservation Office (DCHPO) had me re-survey and map most of the city’s historic districts. Then we set out to survey the entire district by collecting at least a little something on every single addressed building in the District of Columbia. GIS tools are excellent for researching buildings, so I am able to work quickly, efficiently, and accurately.

It was clear that the only way to present, understand,  and analyze all this data was through an online interactive map. That map is a work-in-perpetual-progress known as HistoryQuestDC (HQDC) that launched in 2016 and is hosted and maintained by the DC Office of Planning’s GIS staff.

A snip from the buildings layer of HistoryQuestDC

HQDC incorporates all of the Building Permits Database data on extant buildings and adds data collected from a combination of property tax assessments, period real estate atlases and other maps, newspapers, city directories, previous surveys by architectural historians, Google Streetview, and any other sources that might help me figure out when a building was built, who built it, and whatever else I can quickly turn up.

Other feature layers (click the Layer List icon, white on blue, top right of the map) include National Register of Historic Places sites (with useful links in the popups), Historic Landmarks, Historic Districts, DC Subdivisions, the L’Enfant Plan Boundary, the Squares, and the Wards.

Most of the city’s “developer subdivisions” are included and are available in this format for the first time. Subdivisions were sourced from records in the Office of the Surveyor.

HQDC Dunigan Search
A snip from HistoryQuest DC showing subdivisions and results from a search for developer (original owner) = “dunigan”

Click the Query icon, top right, to search for buildings built at particular times or places or by specific developers or architects.

HistoryQuestDC is a truly unique tool for understanding the buildings and development of Washington DC. If you find anything like it for any jurisdiction of any size, anywhere, please let me know.

I am now working under contract with the Historical Society of Washington DC, which has an agreement with DCHPO. In FY2018, I thoroughly surveyed the area east of the Anacostia River (Wards 7 & 8), and made changes representing new and razed buildings across the District. I also migrated the historical data to the city’s new building footprints.

In FY2019 I re-surveyed the Old City, so the data there is greatly improved. In FY2020 I am re-surveying the area west of Rock Creek and north of Georgetown (Ward 3+). We update annually for new and razed buildings across the entire city.

HistoryQuestDC snip showing historic districts and historic landmarks