Your Old Wilmette House
In the Wilmette Public Library
Wilmette Public Library 1242 Wilmette Ave., Local History Room, Wilmette, Illinois, 60091 Telephone: 847-256-6930
The library has additional materials in its Local History Room that may be helpful as you begin a search on the history of your Wilmette house.
Architects The Local History Room has some information on local architects in the files under ARCHITECTS.
Bach, Ira J., A guide to Chicago’s historic suburbs on wheels and on foot. Chicago: Ohio University Press, 1981. [Ref 917.73 BA]
Organized by county, and then by town, the book consists of thirty-five walking tours from one historic house to the next in each of thirty-five towns. The walk in Wilmette includes twenty-four houses in east Wilmette primarily along Lake and Forest Avenues (pp.535-547). Kenilworth sites are located along Kenilworth and Melrose Avenues (pp.551-564). Some photographs are included.
Architectural album, Chicago’s North Shore. The Junior League of Evanston. Evanston: Junior League, 1988. [917.731 AR]
Contains photos and descriptions of eight architecturally significant houses in Wilmette in addition to those featured in Evanston, Winnetka, Kenilworth, Highland Park, Glencoe, Highwood, Fort Sheridan, Lake Forest, and Lake Bluff. At the end of the book is a bibliography of books about architecture in the area.
City Directories and Telephone Books
Names of previous owners can be found by consulting city directories and telephone books. The library owns an 1893 city directory for Wilmette and Evanston, and five Polk City Directories covering Glencoe, Kenilworth, Wilmette, and Winnetka for the years 1927-1928, 1933, 1935, 1937, 1939. Directories are indexed by address and by name of inhabitant.
The library also has telephone books for Wilmette and Kenilworth for the following years: 1909-1912, 1924-1942, 1945, 1961-1963, 1965-1968, 1982. Telephone books are organized by the name of the owner, not by address. A few of these telephone books are available on this site.
Examination of Titles
Several examinations of titles and deeds for early land transaction in the village are kept in the local history room. Included is a title search dating back to the Ouilmette family. Copies of deeds to property owned by some of the early residents are also among these papers. The material is unindexed, and requires a knowledge of the legal description of the property to identify the deed for a specific lot.
Maps show changes in street names and zoning, and the Sanbourne maps may show the outline shape of the house itself. Complete list of maps in the collection.
Chicago Illinois: Vol. J. Sanbourne Map Company, 1914.
The library owns one copy of the Sanborne insurance maps covering the Wilmette area. The volume of maps is located in the library’s Local History Room. ****No photocopying is permitted because of the fragility of the book***
Olcott’s Land Values Blue Book of Chicago and Suburbs. Chicago: Olcott. [Local History 333.332 OL].
This series of books contains maps showing zoning and value of land in each area. The library owns only 1991 and 1994, but issues back to 1925 are can be found at Cook Memorial Library in Libertyville. Use this series to document changes in street names, zoning, development and the value of land at the time.
Newspaper articles not yet digitized, and house-walk programs detail the history of some of the older houses in the village. Clippings are organized by address in the "House" binders. In addition, if you know the year or approximate year of the building, you may find a story about its construction, or its owners, in the newspaper of the time. The library has microfilms of local newspapers dating back to 1890.
These indexes are organized by address. The library has two copies of the basic ownership index for Wilmette dated July 1, 1936 and the following supplemental ownership indexes: July 1, 1936–September 1, 1936; July 1, 1937–March 1, 1959; October 1960–March 1962. The ownership indexes may not be photocopied because of the fragility of the books.
Photographs can be useful for documenting changes in a house's appearance over the years. The library has some photographs of local houses. Most of the photographs are available on this website.
For historical prices, the Wilmette life microfilm can be searched, if you know the approximate date of the sale of the house. More recent property sales can be searched on the Library's digitized Wilmette Life (2008-ongoing) and Wilmette Beacon (2011-ongoing). (available in-house only)
Cook County real property assessments for New Trier Township are published periodically in the Wilmette Life. The lists are organized by address and provide the owner’s name in addition to the value of the property. Paper copies of recent lists are kept at the Reference Desk, and older issues can be found in the microfilmed Wilmette Life.