Sunday, September 24, 2006

A history lesson

Saturday, Glenn and I went to the Art Institute's "research your house's history" which we really enjoyed. All around a great day.

Some of our preliminary findings: (1) In the 1940s our house was valued in the lowest bunch in the city. (we always knew it was working class). (2) Some houses on our street are on the national register (not ours). (3) we found a copy of the nomination form to make our district be recognized on the national register. We could have spent hours in the Art Institutes Burnham library. One of the most interesting books I found was a "land use survey" from the mid-40's. It was quite large but had a wealth of information about chicago communities-density, percentage owner occupied v. renter occupied, numbers with plumbing, etc. Many, many charts. I sent in one of the books for copying that listed our street and a number of breakdowns specific to our street in 1946 (or whatever the exact date was).

In case you want to look up your chicago area house history, here's some of the "tips" they gave us.

To locate a summary of information on your house, you can go to: and put in your house address.

To check to see about the types of architectural styles on your street, you can go to

To find out if you have a landmark property on your street, you can go to

To find old building permits, you can go to:
University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC) Daley Library, 801 S. Morgan Street, 3rd floor


Chicago's Freedom of Information Office, Department of Building in City Hall--121 N. Lasalle St.


Chicago History Museum Research Center--1601 N. Clark Street

** Keep in mind the year your house was built and its location. No permits will be listed with the City of Chicago until your section of town was annexed by the city.

Unfortunately, I don't think our previous owners ever used permits. We still need to run checks on what our street name used to be. (our street name, along with many others in Chicago changed I think in the early 20th century)

To find information on previous owners:

To to the Cook County Recorder of Deed (records online after 1985)

[Glenn and I are always checking out the site (recorder site) to find out info on transitioning property in our neighborhood-most recently the house across from us that was sold to "We Buy Ugly Houses".

Census Records- Published every 10 years beginning in 1841, but only released after 70 years. The Newberry Library has the most complete set of Census records.

Anyway, there's more particulars, but that could get you started, and you could ask your librarian. The big resources in chicago, are the 1) Chicago History Museum Research Center (reopening October 3, 2006) (2) The Newberry Libary (offering a course in researching your house) and (3) the Your House Has a History downloadable pdf available through the City of Chicago Landmark Commission. (

After all that, we did get some work done around the house too, but that will come with a later post.



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