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Chicago Building Permits Digital Collection 1872-1954

Ledger Detail: Post-1912 

After 1912, the building permit ledgers switched to a format that shows 6 permit forms per ledger page. The process for finding a permit is the same, but you will find a little more information about the property laid out in a different format.

Post - 1912 permits may include:

  • Permit, water, & file numbers
  • Permit owner and address
  • Location 
  • Architect / contractors name
  • Number of stories, type of material, net area
  • Violation
  • Report by contractor
  • Cost of property, permit, water line
  • Final report and inspector check mark or not


  • Identify key information in your index card to find your ledger
    • Permit Number
    •  Date of building address
    • Ledger book (if present)
  • Select the approximate ledger book according to the key information
  • Use the scroll frame to find your permit number
  • Confirm your permit inside the ledger book
  • Use the image tools to enhance your ledger then download or print

Steps in Detail: Example - 5410 S. Bishop St.

1.) Identify key information in your index card

  • Permit number 107206
  • City section (S) 
  • Book number 36
  • Page number 323
  • Date of permit July 23, 1925
You can also note the file number, though it may not always be present on both the permit and the index card.



2.) Go back to the Digital Reel homepage




3.) Select the Chicago Building Permit Ledgers

You will see a list of the ledger book reels.  There is often more than one ledger book per reel. Read the titles carefully, looking for the city section (North, South), and dates.

4.) Select the appropriate ledger book

  • You're looking for a ledger book that will cover the date July 23, 1925.
  • The index card indicated that the permit is in ledger book #36, which covers the South (S) city region.
The ledger should be Book 36 South: Apr 21, 1925 - Oct 29, 1925.

5.) Find your permit inside the ledger book

  • The reel you're looking at contains two ledger books, and you want the second ledger book.
  • The ledger book you want goes from April - October, and the date you're looking for is in July, about halfway through that book.
  • This means that you should scroll about 3/4 of the way through the reel to be near where your permit appears.
  • Now start looking at the dates the permits are issued, and scroll forward or back to get closer to July 23, 1925.
  • Once you start seeing other permits issued on that date, start looking more closely at the Permit Number and Address. Note that the Permit numbers may not always be in order!
  • In this case, the permit appears on page 470 in a reel with 612 pages.


6.) Confirm the permit

  • Use the Zoom in or Scissors tools to zero in on permit number 107206 for 5410 S. Bishop St.

From the permit you can see
Date: In this case the date is stamped too lightly to see, but the dates of adjacent permits are July 23, 1925.
Water App #: 82305
Permit No.: 107206
File No. 113208
Owner: M. A. Van
Address (of owner): not stated
Location: 5410 S. Bishop St.
Architect: not stated
Contractor: Ephram Johnson
No of Stories: 2
Building type and material: Brick apartments.
("Frame" is crossed out. If "Brick" were crossed out, it would indicate that the building material is wood.)
Net area: 27 x 68 x 28
Violation: None
Report: (records 5 separate inspector visits noting construction progress)
Cost: $15,000
P (cost of permit): $10.30
W (cost of water permit): $6.00
Final Report: (date of completion and name of inspector who confirmed completion)
Plate No. 30
Use district: Apartments
Volume district: 1
The most useful information on the permits is often
  • The name and address of the owner, for people doing genealogy research.
  • The name of the architect.
  • The detail of inspections.
  • The cost of construction.
In many cases the permits cite other documents or information that we do not have access to, such as plan or file numbers.

Example: Construction challenges at 4721 W. Chicago Ave.

Permits may show details about the history of construction, such as the contractors who did not make progress at 4721 W. Chicago Ave. Permit commentary may sometimes carry across a ledger page and onto the next page.