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Building and House History

A guide to finding architectural and other information about Chicago buildings and houses.

City of Chicago Building Permit Microfilm

Building permits from the city's files from 1872 to 1954.  These are filed under the current address. Use the Index to find the date of filing and then the date to find the permit. Permits list the owner's name, type of building, and the estimated cost, etc. After 1912, they also provide the architect's name, and often the contractor's as well. When searching for a house on a corner lot, it's best to check the index for both street addresses.

Microfilm of these building permits is available in the Abakanowicz Research Center. UIC has made a digital version of the permit microfilm available, with helpful instructions for searching. Note: the number of researchers who can use this digital version simultaneously is limited.



Building Permits Issued after 1954

For Chicago structures built after 1954, submit a Freedom of Information Act request for the permit and any architectural drawings to the City of Chicago Buildings Department

Other sources

American Contractor database, 1898-1912

For a thorough search, try searching periodicals in hard copy:

  • American Contractor qTH1.A5
  • The Economist qHG1.E3 
  • Real Estate and Building Journal HD1361.R43 OVERSIZE
  • Inland Architect NA722. i5a MICROFILM
  • Inter Ocean newspaper MICROFILM