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House History Research

Are you interested in who designed your house? How old it might be? What materials and construction techniques were used? How it fits into the architectural and social history of the city of Chicago? Here are some websites, databases, and publications to help you research the houses and buildings of Chicago.

Starting Points: From the Commission on Chicago Landmarks

Your House Has a History: A Step-by-Step Guide to Researching Your Property

A clear and concise step-by-step guide to researching your home.

Chicago Historic Resources Survey: An Inventory of Architecturally and Historically Significant Structures

City of Chicago website that includes maps, an architectural style guide, a database of architecturally and historically significant structures, landmark status of each listed building, and an extensive bibliography.

Other Resources

American Contractor Index

Online index to American Contractor's Chicago building permits issued between 1898 and 1912.

City News 

General information about residential building in Chicago and Cook County, including PIN numbers and date of construction. Although not always accurate, information from this site is a good starting point for house research.

Cook County Assessor's Office

Online database of property transactions searchable by address or property identification number. 

Cook County Recorder of Deeds

Online database of all property transactions in Cook County. Ledger books at the Recorder of Deeds Office will also contain all transactions prior to 1985.

Encyclopedia of Chicago

Encyclopedic history of Chicago and its neighborhoods. This site is a good source for maps, including an annexation map of the city. [A print version of the Encyclopedia is available in the Ryerson Library Reading Room.]

Explore Chicago Collections

Website with searchable index to archival collections of more than 20 Chicago-area cultural institutions. More than 100,000 digitized images are available. Tabs for Cities and Neighborhoods help locate resources, images and finding aids for a particular community.

Forgotten Chicago 

Website maintained by an organization that seeks to document little-known elements of Chicago’s infrastructure, architecture, neighborhoods, and general cityscape. It provides links to an excellent collection of Chicago neighborhood maps.

Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

Website with searchable database of Illinois properties under the care of the IHPA.  This site includes photos, maps, timelines, reports, and other information collected by the agency.

Landmarks Illinois

Online database of significant architectural resources for Northern Cook County. Information in the survey database is based on field inspections conducted by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation. The dates of construction for a building are often approximate and are not based on detailed permit research. Some information is based on interviews with property owners, period publications, and other background research.