Building Contracts, 1847-1999

RECORD GROUP: County Clerk
SERIES: Building Contracts
DATES: 1847-1999
VOLUME: 100 cubic feet, 4 volumes

Low Drawing webpage
1890 drawing for Joseph T. Low, Rumson Neck

The Building Contracts record series forms part of the repository’s County Clerk’s Office record group. It includes copies, previously filed in the County Clerk’s office, of agreements between owners and architects or general contractors, signed by both parties, including terms, specifications, materials used, and some blueprints; together with indexes (4 v., 1917-1985) containing the file number and other specifics, reflecting growth patterns within the county. Not all contracts deposited with the Clerk are in the collection; some were lost and others removed due to poor condition.

The Building Contract series covers the period 1847 to 1999. According to law, the County Clerk’s office is required to hold the contracts/agreements for ten years for private residences and structures. The law also specifies that contracts for township or county municipal buildings or structures, such as schools, auditoriums, and churches, are to be held indefinitely. For various reasons, over the years, Monmouth County’s clerks had decided not to follow the ten year building contract destruction timetable for private residences. While many have survived, particularly from the years 1847 to 1939, others have been lost or are extremely deteriorated and are unavailable for research purposes. Due to the growing interest in architecture and research on historic homes in Monmouth County, the County Clerk’s Office decided to retain both private residence and municipal contracts in the Archives and make them available to researchers.

There are 7,056 records in this group. Building Contracts are agreements between owners and architects or general contractors. Once the agreement is signed by both parties, a copy is filed in the County Clerk’s office. The agreement states the terms of the contract, such as total cost, a time frame for payments, and a completion date. Specifications were outlined in the agreement detailing room sizes, foundation specifications, types of lumber to be used, or masonry specifications. The agreements, when subcontractors were employed, include additional contracts between the owner and painter, mason, plumber, or electrician. In many cases, blueprints are filed with the agreement. Each agreement was assigned a number. The file number, owner, architect or contractor, and date filed were recorded in the Index to Building Contract books. The first half of the Building Contract books is an alphabetical listing of owners. The second half is arranged alphabetically by architect or contractor but only gives the file number. Researchers should be aware of gaps in the records. First, not all contracts deposited with the County Clerk are in the file. Some early ones are certainly lost, as there are none or very few for certain years. Second, the number of building contracts in the series drops off significantly after 1930. While the low number in the 1930s could be explained by the Depression, the reason for the relatively few contracts for the more recent period has not been determined. However, it should be realized that the County Clerk was only required to retain contracts for public buildings. Analysis of the available contracts for the period 1940‑1969 indicates that about one‑half are for public buildings, suggesting that most of the private contracts were not retained. Third, about 30 contracts from various years were segregated by the Archives due to extremely poor condition and are not included in the series or in the index. Consequently, the data is primarily useful to indicate the amount of material in this series available in different time periods. Many different architects and contractors were used in the 7,056 contracts found in this record series. Two architects are listed more than one hundred times: Warren H. Conover (212), and Ernest A. Arend (180).

This collection is open to researchers.

The building contract files have been scanned and are available upon request in the Archives. Some files in poor condition were not completely scanned.

The Building Contracts are arranged by town, then by year, then by applicant. Boxes 73-100 are arranged by contract number by year.

Monmouth County Archives
125 Symmes Drive
Manalapan, NJ 07726
Phone: (732) 308-3771

The bulk of these records were transferred to the Monmouth County Archives by County Clerk Jane G. Clayton under Accession #1997-4 on February 26, 1997. More contracts were transferred to the Archives by County Clerk M. Claire French, in 1998, 2005, and 2008.

The Building Contracts finding aid was created on February 10, 1996, and updated by George Joynson in March 2016. An Access database was created February 27, 1997, and expanded in April 2012. The contracts were not microfilmed but they have been scanned.

Another table in the Building Contracts Access database folder is Newspaper Notices. These records are from information published in the weekly Red Bank Register. The Register published new construction, additions, renovations and alterations, as Building Contracts, sometimes called Building Notes, from 1878-1991. Fields in the newspaper notices database include owner, builder (architect, carpenter, mason, painter, etc.), year, location, cost, description, notes and newspaper publication date. Only a few years are entered, as additions to this table are in progress. Some of the records in the Newspaper Notices table are for structures being built which were not included in the Building Contracts table in Access, so researchers should check both tables. The newspaper notices include information on construction of residences, cottages, commercial buildings, hotels, schools, churches, bridges, fire houses, lifesaving stations, barns, windmills, livery stables, henneries, etc.