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Chicago Building Permits Digital Collection 1872-1954

Finding Historic Chicago Building Permits: Overview

Starting with a known street address:

A: Determine if there is a permit for that address

  • Select the Browse Building Permits button on the left to get to the Chicago Building Permits Collection home page
  • Select the Chicago Building Permit Street Index
  • Select the reel that covers your street name and address
  • Scroll through the index cards until you find your address
    • You may need to enhance the card images to read them clearly
  • Note the following information
    • Permit number
    • Permit issue date
    • Name of ledger book (if present)
    • Page number (if present)

B: If so, locate the permit

  • Return to the Chicago Building Permits Collection home page
  • Select the Chicago Building Permit Ledgers
  • If the street index provided you with a ledger title, you can use that to select the correct reel
  • If you don't have a ledger title
    • Look through the list for ledgers that cover the permit issue date you have
    • Select a ledger that corresponds to the region of Chicago for your address (i.e. North, South)
  • Scroll through the reel using the permit issue date to tell you when you're getting near to the permit you're looking for.
  • As you get closer to permits issued on that date, start using the permit number to zero in on the permit.

The rest of this guide provides illustrated examples of the process outlined above.  The guide also provides tips for navigating through reels, enhancing images, and some common issues, such as address changes.

NEXT: Using Digital Reel