Jack Boucher spent his life preserving historic buildings with his camera.
The National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) is the nation's first federal preservation program, launched in 1933 as a way of documenting the nation’s architectural heritage. For half a century Jack Boucher traveled the United States for HABS photographing what NPS calls “a complete resume of the builder's art.”
He also photographed places for the Historic American Engineering Record and the Historic American Landscape Survey. But today, his images are appreciated as more than just documents of historic places; they are appreciated as art.
Lauded by preservationists and photographers alike, Boucher’s photographs of colonial-era mansions, civic monuments, structures designed by the greatest American architects, and vernacular buildings help define our evolution as a nation as well as the diverse regions we call home.
His career took him to 49 states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, and he produced thousands of images, all of which are public domain and available through the Library of Congress.
Jack Boucher died September 2, 2012, and was remembered by friends and family five days later at Old Saint Mary's Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. Here’s what colleagues from the preservation community had to say about his legacy (emphasis added):
"Jack Boucher was an American master of large-format photography. He is certainly a legend, having lectured to thousands and producing tens of thousands of large-format photographs of historic architecture, landscape architecture, and engineering sites across the United States over the past 50 years." -- Paul D. Dolinsky, Chief of the Historic American Landscapes Survey
"Mr. Boucher leaves an incredible legacy for his work capturing iconic buildings and national parks, and his photography helped raise public awareness of architecture in general." -- Scott Frank, American Institute of Architects
"In the passing of Jack Boucher, the National Park Service has lost one of the true giants of historic preservation. His nearly five decades of photographing historic sites for the Historic American Buildings Survey, Historic American Engineering Record, and Historic American Landscape Survey have provided incalculable contributions to the nation’s largest archive of historical architectural, engineering and landscape documentation that will be used by the preservation community for generations to come." – Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service
"The long career of Jack Boucher as photographer for the Historic American Buildings Survey leaves a legacy that will last much longer. He captured a remarkable range of the built environment that will continue to play a pivotal role in how we see our heritage for decades to come. The absence of a successor at HABS is a sad situation indeed." -- Richard Longstreth, Director of Historic Preservation and Professor of American Civilization, George Washington University
"Jack Boucher was a luminary in the field of preservation. As Chief Photographer for the Historic American Buildings Survey, he documented thousands of important historic places including National Trust Historic Sites such as Cliveden, Lyndhurst, and Belle Grove as well as National Treasures such as Union Station and Haas-Lilienthal. His contribution to the field is unmatched and he was key to taking the pulse of preservation over the past half century. As he documented American architecture he followed the prevailing interests of preservationists from Colonial to Victorian to industrial and beyond. His lens uniquely captured the many of the important styles of our time.” -- Stephanie Meeks, President, National Trust for Historic Preservation
"Jack was one of our last links to the early days of the national historic preservation program in post-World War II America. His monumental body of photographs set the standard for his generation and for generations to follow. He was a craftsman of the highest order, an artist, and teacher. His life's work will far outlast all of us. His passions were his wife Peggy, photography, good food in great restaurants, and his beloved Catholic Church. We have lost a valued and irreplaceable member of the heritage preservation community. We will not see his like again." -- de Teel Patterson (Pat) Tiller, former Deputy Associate Director, Cultural Resources, National Park Service
This post originally appeared on the blog of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Top image: Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico -- 1960. Jack Boucher/Library of Congress.