Louisiana Division/City Archives
New Orleans Public Library

Sources for Researching the History of Your House (Or Other Building) in New Orleans

Fire Department

These records may have importance for several reasons. If you suspect that an earlier structure on a lot was destroyed by fire, these records could provide confirmation. Fire reports might also describe partial fire damage to a building, something that might be useful to an understanding of the resultant repairs.

New Orleans (La.) Fire Alarm and Police Telegraph. Record of messages received and sent, 1860-1863
The record book is a manuscript log of the messages received and sent through the system. Each message is identified by the time sent, the station sending (with operator's initials), the station receiving (also with operator's initials), and, in most cases, the date. The text of each message is recorded, along with the text of the answering message. Messages deal with sightings of criminals, fire alarms, lost children, runaway slaves, etc. Several messages around the time of the Federal capture of the city in May, 1862 may be of special interest. Additional information can be found here.
(PGB500 1860-1863 mf)

New Orleans (La.) Fire Alarm and Police Telegraph. Reports of the Fire Alarm Telegraph Corps, 1885-1887
Includes exact location of fire, name of owner and occupant, use of the structure, amount of loss, value of improvements and contents, amount of insurance, and the cause of the fire.
(PGB202 1885-1887)

New Orleans Fire Dept. Monthly fire reports, 1900-1976 (24 vols.)
The records are manuscript monthly reports submitted by the Assistant Engineer of each fire district and bound into large ledgers arranged by month and, thereunder, by district. The volume covering the years 1924-1926 were missing at the time of transfer from the New Orleans Fire Department.

The format of the ledger pages changed remarkably little during the 76 years covered by the reports. The reports give: date of fire, time, station number, owner of property, occupant of property, occupied as (e.g. residence, shoe store, barroom), location, number of stories, style of building (e.g., frame, brick, double), cause of fire, amount of loss (subdivided into stock, building, furniture), amount of insurance (subdivided into stock, building, furniture), remarks, and size of hose (2 1/2", 3/4", P.E -- column added in 1920).

From 1900 to 1940, each monthly report includes (on the reverse of the page) a tally of the number of alarms (whether bell or still – telephone is included in later years), the total estimated loss and insurance, the number of actual fires, and the total number of “unnecessary” responses). In some years, these accumulated totals are more detailed, including a tally of the causes of fires and the type of use of the building. Beginning in 1941, the monthly tallies no longer appear. Additional information on the reports can be found here.
(PD208 1900-1973 mf)

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