Your Old Wilmette House
In the Wilmette Public Library

The Wilmette Public Library has several excellent resources for you when you're starting to research the history of your Wilmette house. Many materials are located in the the Local History Room on the First Floor of the Wilmette Public Library. Currently available by appointment only; email to make an appointment.

Resources in the Local History Room

The Local History Room has some information on local architects in the files under ARCHITECTS or ARCHITECTURE. Some of the architects covered include George W. Maher, Elisaa Morgante, Fred Wilson, Myron Goldsmith, and Marion Mahony Griffin.

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.

A guide to Chicago’s historic suburbs on wheels and on foot. By Ira J. Bach. 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.

Historical and architectural survey : Indian Hill Estates and Environs, 1995. [Ref Local History 720.97731 HI]

A survey conducted for the Village of Wilmette that documented all of the structures and sites in the Indian Hill Estates and Environs survey area. Includes historical context, information about architects, typical design concepts for the subdivision, and a survey summary.

Inventory of historic structures in Wilmette, Cook County, 1972. [Ref Local History 720.97731 IN]

A survey of historic homes, conducted by the Illinois Historic Structures Survey. Includes information about each house including address, type of structure, name of original owner (if known), date of construction (if known), and architect (if known).

North Shore Chicago: houses of the lakefront suburbs, 1890-1940, by Stuart Earl Cohen, 2004. [728.8 CO]

Highlights some of the historic homes in Wilmette and the North Shore that were built between 1890-1940. Includes photographs and descriptions of each house.

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 both the address and the 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, and 2002-2004. Telephone books are organized by the name of the owner, not by address. A few of these telephone books have been digitized and are available online.

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.

House History Files
Newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and other miscellaneous information about local houses are organized by address in our “House” binders, kept in the Local History Room. You may also find house-walk programs that detail the history of some of the older homes in the village. Occasionally these articles include photos, floorplans, or descriptions of the homes.

Maps show changes in street names and zoning, and the Sanborn maps may show the outline shape of the house itself. Learn more about maps in the collection.

Chicago Illinois: Vol. J. Sanborn Map Company, 1914. [Local History Atlas Stand]

The library owns one copy of the Sanborn insurance maps covering the Wilmette area. This volume is the 1914 edition, with additions through June 1936. The volume includes Wilmette locations east of Ridge Ave.; Kenilworth; Winnetka; Chicago locations south of Howard Ave., east of Western Ave., north of Devon. The volume cannot be photocopied due to the size and fragility of the volume.

Olcott’s Land Values Blue Book of Chicago and Suburbs, 1991 and 1994. [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 earlier volumes can be found at other area libraries. Use this series to document changes in street names, zoning, development and the value of land at the time.

Official Atlas of New Trier Township, 1950-1955. [Local History Atlas Stand]

Clear view maps compiled and furnished by Sidwell Studio. Use these maps to establish subdivision name, block and lot numbers, and approximate measurements of the lot.

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. Local newspapers may also record property sales, including historical sale prices and owners, or real estate listings.

Search in the newspaper by address or by the legal property description. For homes built between 1935-1940, search the annual real estate issues of the Wilmette Life in January of those years. The library has local newspapers dating back to 1890 on microfilm or in digital format, depending on the time period, and some older papers have been indexed. Learn more about local newspapers at the Wilmette Public Library.

Ownership indexes
These indexes are organized by address, and provide a description of each property and the name of the owner. The volumes also include maps of the village. 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 library also has an ownership index for Kenilworth, which is dated 1924, with supplements to 1942. The ownership indexes may not be photocopied because of the size and 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 have been digitized and are available on this website.

Tax lists
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. Miscellaneous tax lists, primarily from the 1930’s, are also available in the Vertical Files, located in the Local History Room.
435 Lake Ave., Wilmette
435 Lake Ave., Wilmette Details
1343 Ridge Rd., Wilmette
1343 Ridge Rd., Wilmette Details
View looking south on Ninth St. Wilmette, Illinois
View looking south on Ninth St. Wilmette, Illinois Details
Wilmette and Kenilworth Telephone Directory, June 1925
Wilmette and Kenilworth Telephone Directory, June 1925 Details
Hand drawn map No Man’s Land
Hand drawn map No Man’s Land Details
1136 Greenleaf, Wilmette, Illinois
1136 Greenleaf, Wilmette, Illinois Details
500 Central Ave., Wilmette
500 Central Ave., Wilmette Details
Butz family group
Butz family group Details
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