Research is one of my favorite, favorite things to do, which means writing this book kept me in my happy place for extended periods of time. I’ve visited every one of these landmarks, taken several tours, and pre-pandemic, stayed in every hotel except for The Drake. The on-the-ground research was vital and I’m glad I was able to do so much of it before we went into lockdown.
I’m also grateful for the nearly exhaustive amount of material that’s available online. So much information has been digitized that, while I couldn’t dive into the collections at the Newberry Library, the Chicago History Museum, or the Art Institute of Chicago, I could locate primary source materials that had been digitized through many of the sources listed below.
Discovering the history of these landmarks required investigative skills (I knew that journalism degree would come in handy) and digging deep to find things like annual reports from the Chicago Historical Society or the original Plan of Chicago. I spent many a happy afternoon diving into newspaper archives. Tip: do not do this if you have to be anywhere any time soon. Browsing ads and articles from the 1800s is fascinating.
It was fun, but it was also time consuming and sometimes aggravating, especially when I began to wonder if I was procrastinating so I wouldn’t have to actually write. But then, more often than not, that one last search would reveal some cool little tidbit that would direct how I’d tell the story. Every time I’d nail down a fact or either confirm or refute a rumor I’d do a little dance. That kind of stuff makes my journalist heart happier than unlimited time with an unabridged dictionary. Being confident I knew what really happened—or at least what was reported at the time—gave me the freedom to tell each landmark’s story in a way that is honest and, hopefully, entertaining.
Because this book is about the stories, I haven’t included footnotes or endnotes. Those can be distracting, and I didn’t want to pull you out of these captivating tales. Plus, listing every resource would practically double the size of this book—and it’s already pretty lengthy.
Below I’ve listed a few of my go-to sources. These and more are listed on the Resources page of livinglandmarksofchicago.com. Also on the website are detailed sources for each landmark, and you can find those on the landmark’s individual page. You can find a link to a page with all of the landmarks from the navigation menu.
Resources used to research Living Landmarks of Chicago
I found the majority of these books on Hathitrust.org, one of the website resources listed below.
Andreas, Alfred Theodore. History of Chicago. United States, Arno Press, 1975.
Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men of Chicago. Chicago: Wilson & St. Clair, 1868.
The Book of Chicago. Chicago: Chicago Evening Post, 1911.
Chamberlin, Everett. Chicago And Its Suburbs. Chicago: T. A. Hungerford & co., 1874.
Chicago And Its Resources Twenty Years After, 1871-1891: a Commercial History Showing the Progress And Growth of Two Decades From the Great Fire to the Present Time. Chicago: Chicago Times Company, 1892.
Chicago’s First Half Century. Chicago: The Inter ocean publishing company, 1883.
Cook, Frederick F. (Frederick Francis). Bygone Days In Chicago: Recollections of the “Garden City” of the Sixties. Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co., 1910.
Dean, C., of Chicago. The World’s Fair City And Her Enterprising Sons. [Chicago]: United publishing co., 1892.
Drury, John, 1898-. A Century of Progress Authorized Guide to Chicago. Chicago: Consolidated book publishers, inc, 1933.
Ericsson, Henry, 1861-, John M. Van Osdel, and Lewis Edward Myers. Sixty Years a Builder: the Autobiography of Henry Ericsson. Chicago: A. Kroch and son, 1942.
Grossman, James R., editor. The Encyclopedia of Chicago. University of Chicago Press, 2014.
Illinois. Division of Historic Sites, and Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Division of Preservation Services. Historic Illinois. [Springfield]: Illinois Dept. of Conservation, Division of Historic Sites, 1978.
Kirkland, Caroline. Chicago Yesterdays: a Sheaf of Reminiscences. Chicago: Daughaday and company, 1919.
Leonard, John W. The Book of Chicagoans. Chicago: A. N. Marquis & Co., 1905.
Marquis, Albert Nelson. Marquis’ Hand-book of Chicago: a Complete History. Chicago: A. N. Marquis & Co., 1885.
McIlvaine, Mabel. Reminiscences of Chicago During the Great Fire. Chicago: R. R. Donnelly & sons company, 1915.
Monroe, Harriet, 1860-1936, Henry Van Brunt, and Charles Frederick William Mielatz. John Wellborn Root; a Study of His Life And Work. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1896.
Moore, Charles, 1855-1942. Daniel H. Burnham, Architect, Planner of Cities. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1921.
A.N. Marquis & Company. A. N. Marquis & Co.’s Official Street Guide to Chicago. Chicago: A. N. Marquis & co., 1890.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography … Volume Iv. New York: James T. White & Co., 1897.
Smith, Henry Justin, 1875-1936. Chicago’s Great Century, 1833-1933. Chicago: Consolidated Publishers, 1933.
Sullivan, Louis H., 1856-1924. The Autobiography of an Idea. New York: Press of the American institute of architects, inc., 1924.
Withey, Henry F, and Elsie Rathburn Withey. Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (deceased). Los Angeles: New Age Pub. Co, 1956.
Please note that since these sources are online, they’re subject to change or disappear entirely.
Chicago Architecture Center
The Chicago Architecture Center should be the starting point for anyone interested in Chicago’s buildings. In addition to their incredible tours, especially their famous river cruises, their online database offers summaries of many of the city’s most significant landmarks. architecture.org
Chicagology “is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War.” The site features newspaper articles and editorial summaries about historic buildings, people, and lots of other things, like Prohibition, horse racing, and the Chicago park system. chicagology.com
Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress, this site provides “access about historic newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages.” Newspaper pages date back to 1777. chroniclingamerica.loc.gov
City of Chicago Landmark Designation Reports
Most of the landmarks in this book are designated Chicago landmarks. The official reports usually include information about the architect as well as a description of the building. There’s often a section on the context of the landmark. For example, the Chicago Board of Trade report includes backstory on why a board of trade was needed in the first place. Most of these reports are available at archive.org.
This site is organized like an encyclopedia and is published by the authors of A Compendium of the Early History of Chicago to the Year 1835, when the Indians left, Ulrich Danckers and Jane Meredith, with the help of the contributing editor John F. Swenson. The topics are extensively researched, and the site includes a massive bibliography. Early Chicago is a great resource for authoritative information on Jean Baptise de Sable (and why it’s de Sable and not du Sable). earlychicago.com
Find A Grave
Find A Grave is a helpful site for finding birth and death dates and, of course, where people are buried. Portions of the family tree are often listed, as well as brief biographical information. Because it’s built in user-generated content, it’s a good idea to confirm accuracy. findagrave.com
HathiTrust Digital Library
Don’t get me started on this incredible resource, because I may not stop talking about it. This is a researcher’s treasure trove. And it’s free! HathiTrust is a “not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries preserving 17+ million digitized items.” This is where I found Louis Sullivan’s autobiography, an Official Street Guide to Chicago from 1890, an 1856 Chicago city directory, and the catalogue of the collection Samuel and Matilda Nickerson donated to the Art Institute, among many, many others. hathitrust.org
Illinois Secretary of State Document Teaching Packages
This site provides historical documents intended for educators from the Illinois State Archives. The Early Chicago, 1833 – 1871 section includes a Census Report from August 9, 1852; a July 12, 1849, Petition for Frederick Douglass’ Use of City Hall, signed by several prominent Chicagoans; and a Petition Relating to Geese Running at Large from August 29, 1845. There’s also Suggestions for Further Reading. Because this site is a teaching guide, there are suggested questions and an instructor’s manual. Educators can also request physical copies of these documents. cyberdriveillinois.com
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms
Several of the landmarks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Information on the nomination forms is similar to what’s on the Chicago Landmarks Designation Reports. Several of these are available at archive.org.
Two words: Rabbit Hole. Newspapers.com publishes scans of newspapers dating to the 1700s. The database is searchable by keywords, dates, location, and specific paper. There’s a version available through my local library, but I subscribed to gain access to Chicago Tribune’s archives. This resource not only provided information current to the construction and early years of many landmarks, but also the context of what was happening in Chicago and the world. newspapers.com
Wikipedia? Seriously? Before I lose you, let me explain. Wikipedia can be a good resource, if used with caution. The reason I find it useful is the References section. This can sometimes be a treasure trove of resources, including articles, books, links to authoritative sites, and academic papers. I would never pull information from Wikipedia without verifying it elsewhere, but it’s a decent starting place.
Chicago Detours – Tour company with great historical resources
Chicago Tribute – Historical markers in Chicago
Hidden Truths: The Chicago City Cemetery and Lincoln Park: by Pamela Bannos. Extensive research.
Living History of Illinois: “knowledgebase and repository for Illinois documents, books, research papers, and other Illinois history resources.”
Made in Chicago Museum: well-researched histories of objects collected by Andrew Clayman. There are plans to turn these stories into a book, and that will absolutely be on my shelf.
Ryerson & Burnham Archives at the Art Institute of Chicago