A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

Piecing History Together

As I mentioned the other day, I went downtown to the Recorder of Deeds in the Cook County building at 118 N. Clark to try and learn more about the history of our house.

Down in the basement you’ll find large binders containing handwritten logs which recorded all of the transactions related to your house (along with all the others in your neighborhood) up until 1985. (Anything after that date is available online.)

The employees there were very helpful and found the appropriate binder to get me started. If you go, in addition to your Property Identification Number (PIN), it’s helpful to have the written legal description of your property which states your lot number and subdivision.

From there you scan through each page to find a reference to your lot number, which details the transaction that occurred, the parties involved, the date, and the document number.

The first interesting fact: our subdivision was created in 1925 as a direct result of the Elevated Line extension on Dempster Street (now CTA’s Yellow line, the Skokie Swift). I know this because our subdivision is called the Northwestern Realty Co. Dempster Terminal. While only about a mile away, today it doesn’t feel related to this area at all mainly because the Edens Expressway now separates the two.

But back then most of the area was surrounded by farmland. The original Dempster Street station, shown here on opening day of the Elevated Line in 1925, was built in the Prairie Style by Chicago Transit Authority architect Arthur Gerber.

Over the years the building fell into disrepair and was used as the Greyhound Bus Terminal in the 1970s and later. In the 1990s it was an eyesore, until it was finally “rediscovered” and recognized to be architecturally significant in the early 2000s.

The Village of Skokie managed to find a developer willing to restore the building, and because they were also reconfiguring the surrounding transit hub, the building had to be moved 120 feet to the east in order to accommodate the buses that serve the CTA.

It’s now a gorgeous building housing my favorite Starbucks.

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