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Chicago Building Permits Digital Collection 1872-1954

Using the Street Index: Overview

First, you need to use the street index to find out if a permit was issued for the address you have.  From the Chicago Building Permits Collection home page: 

  • Select the Chicago Building Permit Street Index
  • Scan the list for the reel that covers your street name
  • When you've loaded that reel, look for your index card alphabetically by street name and number
  • When you find the card for your address, note the information there about the permit
  • Proceed to the Chicago Building Permit Ledgers to find the permit

To note:

  • North, South, East and West address numbers will be next to each other in the street index.  So 4700 N. Western Ave. will be immediately next to 4710 S. Western Ave.
  • Chicago streets outside the Loop were renumbered in 1909; streets inside the Loop were renumbered in 1911. The street index includes cross-references to the original and current address for structures that were built before these dates.
  • The formats and data in the permit ledgers changed over time, significantly in 1912. The index cards will contain more or less information as the permits themselves change.
  • You may find many index cards for your address! If different structures were built at the same address, you may find multiple index cards with references to permits.  You may also find cards for smaller enhancements such as repairs to fire escapes, plumbing or doors.
  • You may not find an index card for your address. 


Steps in Detail

1.)   Start in the Chicago Building Permit Street Index reels


2.) Look for your Permit alphabetically by street name. Choose the row that contains your street name.

3.) Once you've selected a reel, use the navigation and image enhancement tools to find and display the index card for your address.


Sample Street Index Cards


Example 1: Addresses prior to 1909 Chicago street renumbering.

Your index card may contain a second address. The top address will be current address for the property.  The bottom address will be the prior address, and is what you will see on the permit itself for any permit issued before the address was changed. In most cases only the address number will be different, but in some cases the street name itself was changed.


Example 2: North and South addresses adjacent to each other.

Within the street index north and south, east and west addresses are next to each other.  

The index cards for 4622 S. Ashland Ave. and 4623 N. Ashland Ave. are immediately next to each other on the street index reel.


Example 3: Cards for Minor Alterations

In some cases all of the permit information is included on the index card, and there is no corresponding permit in the ledger books.  In this case, upgrades are being made to plumbing at 411 S. Wabash.


Example 4: Index Cards that Cite a Specific Ledger Book

You can find the ledger book you need with just the date of the permit and the street address, but some index cards make the search easier by showing which specific book to look for.  Sometimes you will see the word "Book", but other times you will see just a number and a city section abbreviation.

In this example, the note "W 35" tells you that this permit is recorded in Ledger Book #35, which covers the West region of the city. The card also cites a page number, "427". (Note that the line through this page number is damage to the physical microfilm from heavy use).

Additional Information on Index Cards

Some index cards may also include cross-references to material that is not in the collection, such as Plan numbers.  This collection does not include the design plans for properties, only the permits.


The Information to Note

Once you have an index card for your address, you can find the permit with just

  • the date a permit was issued 
  • the permit number

These two pieces of information should appear on every card.  If the card specifies the title (number) of the ledger book or a city section, you should note that too; it will make it easier to find the right ledger book.

NEXT: Using the Ledger Books