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House Histories

Are you curious about who built your house? Its architectural style? How it fits into the development of your neighborhood? The people who lived there before you?

I research and write illustrated histories of houses in Washington, D.C. and its suburbs. Your house history can be presented in your choice of formats:

  • A professionally-bound book on archival paper, perfect as a gift or keepsake
  • An album to which you can add your own, ongoing history in your house
  • A website just for your house, so you can share our discoveries with friends and family
  • A single sheet or brochure presenting highlights of the house's history, suitable for use in marketing a house for sale, or comparable information provided in electronic format for you to use in your own marketing materials
  • Any combination of the above — or someting else! Just let me know what you have in mind.

Whichever option you choose, you get an electronic dossier including the text of your house history and copies of all illustrative materials.

Filling in the Gaps

If you have already undertaken substantial research on your own house and just need expert help filling in some missing information, I can help. I bill such smaller projects at my usual hourly rate, with a not-to-exceed price so we stay within your budget. See the F.A.Q. for more details.

House History Research for Preservation

If you are planning alterations to an historic property, I can research your house's style, development, and relationship to its context to help you make decisions about your design and restoration approach and to support an application to the preservation review board for your historic district.

Timing

I expect to be able to complete most narrative house histories within an 8-week window. However, if you have a firm deadline, such as an occasion for which you plan to give the history as a gift, please get in touch early. Clients planning to give house histories as holiday gifts should get in touch early in the fall if possible. It takes time to write an extended narrative, secure image permissions where necessary, and prepare your house history for print or web publication.

Historic reports for architects and "history highlights" brochures or text for use in marketing can be prepared on shorter notice. Count on a minimum of two weeks, since some of the relevant archives can only be visited by appointment. It is helpful if you can get in touch as soon as you know that a house will be coming on the market.

Cost

The precise cost of a house history depends on the extent and availability of records for the property. Illustrated narrative histories for houses in the District built after 1876 can normally be completed for $750, plus any costs associated with images and printing. Older houses in the District, houses in other jurisdictions, and institutional buildings will normally be somewhat more expensive to research because of the need to travel to various archives.

An initial consultation is always free. During our initial discussion, I can give you a sense of the depth of sources related to your house that we are likely to find and what the research will entail. Following our initial consultation, I will prepare a detailed estimate for your approval. Send me an email and let me know what you have in mind, and we can set up an appointment to talk further.

Copyright and Confidentiality

Your client relationship with me, the fact that you are having a house history prepared, and any details of your own family's time in your house are completely confidential. This ensures that you can order a house history as a gift and be sure the surprise will not be spoiled, or have a history prepared confidentially in preparation for marketing a house.

In accordance with U.S. copyright law, I retain the copyright as author of the house history narrative I prepare for you. I license the house history text to you under a Creative Commons license appropriate to your planned use of the history (commercial or noncommercial), which allows you maximum flexibility in sharing the text with interested audiences while specifying that I be acknowledged as author. Following an agreed-upon date (for instance, after a gift is presented), I may use the historical research I conducted about your house in my marketing materials or for further research, but will continue to protect your privacy as my client and as the house's current owner.