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Building and House History

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

Getting Started

The Chicago History Museum holds many resources for researching the history of Chicago building, whether you want to know something about your condo in a former shoe factory, a bungalow on the west side, or a downtown commercial building. A visit to the Abakanowicz Research Center will provide many possibilities for research, and staff is always available at the Reference Desk to help you. Some resources can be accessed remotely.

If you are not able to come in yourself, you may want to hire a house history researcher from our freelance researcher list.

Chicago Landmarks

City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development

Find many proposed and designated landmark reports for Chicago buildings and neighborhoods (many, but not all).

Buildings in Downtown Chicago

Commonly known as "Randall," this is the standard source for sites in the Loop and Near North.

Clipping Files

For many of Chicago's notable buildings, there are entries in the Clipping Files. Newspaper articles, dating from the 1930s through the 1980s, may add information not easily found online. Clipping files are located in the Abakanowicz Research Center.

Online Resources

If your building is in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, some of your research may already be done. Scans of the information files for buildings designated as (OR) or (RD) may be requested by emailing

The Chicago Landmarks Commission has created a step-by-step guide to researching buildings. This webinar from the Chicago Bungalow Association provides an introduction to researching any vintage home.

The Cook County Assessor's website often shows a photograph of the property as it looks today. You can start with the Cook County Property Tax Portal.  Search by address. 

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) documents structures throughout the U.S. with measured drawings, photographs, and data sheets. If you are looking for a prominent building, such as the Chicago Water Tower or the Marquette Building, you may find information here.

The Historic Chicago Schools website contains information on both architectural and social history for a number of Chicago's public schools.