Chicago Vintage Postcards
The  History and Architecture of Chicago, Illinois
A Tour Of The City in Vintage Postcards

 I'm continuing  to add Chicago cards to this online (non-commercial) collection, and you may scroll down to take the tour, or look for any new cards highlighted at POSTCARDS A-Z.  

WHAT'S NEW !    Because I get frequent requests for high resolution images of my vintage postcards,    I have  launched am online store to offer high quality high resolution (600 dpi) images of some of my  postcards at very low prices!   I'll do  custom scans for publications, but as time permits, I'll be adding stock images.   The images are digitally improved and  ideal for print media. The latest additions are early 1880s lithographic images of Chicago.  If you have seen a postcard on this site and need a high resolution scan, see the section on the site about custom orders.  If it is a card that I can add as a stock image, I'll be happy to negotiate.   The online store funds my history, genealogy, and vintage postcard sites (like this one)! 
Years ago, my genealogy research in Northeast Illinois led me to start collecting postcards to enhance my history and genealogy web sites.   Subsequently, I fell in love with early 20th Century Chicago and have since become interested in the early and great architects of the city.  I must confess that I live in a suburb of  Atlanta, Georgia have never been to Illinois...maybe next year!    I'm pleased that this has been such a popular web site.  I certainly have enjoyed creating it.

Because I began this site so long ego,  I try to go back and "fix" and improve pages as time permits.   One of the unexpected pleasures has been discovering  buildings that were not designated as Chicago Landmarks are now.  Bravo, Chicago!   Also, I have changed computers over time, and my new computer monitor is set at 1024 X 768 resolution.   If you use 800 X 600, these images will look huge, but perhaps you'll appreciate the detail!

I have cheated a bit by including a few lithographs from old souvenir albums and stereo views which predate the earliest "Private Mailing Card" and the penny postcards.  The lithographs  are too beautiful  to ignore, and they  represent rare views of early buildings.  I have a new souvenir album (Jan 2008) from which I will scan additional views, especially ones from the Columbian Exposition.  At the same time, I am terribly guilty of avoiding cards or buildings that I don't find esthetically pleasing. I'm pickier than I was when I first started collecting, and now will only buy a poor card if I can't find a beautiful one of the same scene or building.  However, when I scan and restore a beautiful image from a  card in poor condition, it's even more gratifying.


From its humble beginning  and  growth of a city to the devastation of the fire of 1871,  and it's rise from the ashes, Chicago always has been a city of  contrasts.  The city experienced two booms in the construction of commercial buildings- the period after the recession of the 1870s and the early 1890's in preparation for the coming of the Colombian Exposition to Chicago.

The world acclaimed architects of 19th Century Chicago were more engineers than architects.  They were in the forefront of the movement toward functional commercial architecture, introducing the use of steel and concrete ... and the Skyscraper.

For many of the famous architects of the day, the 1893 World Columbian Exposition launched them into the spotlight.  Unfortunately, John Wellborn Root, long time friend and colleague of Daniel Burnham, died just before construction began, so he never saw his original drawings come to life.

The buildings and city streets in this collection depict the architecture of Chicago's building boom from 1880 to 1905.   Many of these great buildings and early  skyscrapers  are now gone.  If I know the architects' names I have the buildings listed by architect as well as by street. 

Many of the architectural cards are the artist's rendering of how the buildings were proposed to look upon completion.  Often they were printed elsewhere - many in Germany - so the colors may not be true and they may actually look  better than reality!  Common materials were terra cotta, graystone (limestone) and brick..

I have background information on many of these historic buildings and will be adding it as time permits.  Some buildings are named but I may not know the location, architect, or date of completion.  My sincere thanks to all the folks who have helped me with information on these buildings, and particularly to John Hug, a volunteer with the Chicago Architecture Foundation,  Dave Daruszka who hosts an excellent Ridge Historical Society web site, and fellow collector Gregg Durham, who not only has shared his enthusiasm and data with me over the years, but actual postcards. 

If you're interested in historic Chicago, be sure to check out the links below to other web sites about Chicago's history and architecture.

In almost every case, these are scanned images of vintage postcards in my collection.  In the extremely rare case that an image was contributed by another collector, it is used with permission.  I have included a few lithographs from historic souvenir books in my collection.

Although I appreciate offers of scanned images, I have a box full of postcards that I haven't had time to scan myself.  I get frequent requests for high resolution scanned images of my cards for advertising or publication.  I regret to have to decline most requests.  Working full time in Atlanta real estate and hosting numerous genealogy and history web sites keeps me busy.  However, I am always looking for the "real deal" (the card, not the image) for some of the rarer cards of short lived buildings. 

Navigating this Site
This site is designed as a continuous tour of early 20th Century Chicago,    but  you  may also go directly to a particular building or scene.    Postcards  available in high resolution digital images are denoted with the appearance of the button below.  Click on this button to visit   Vintage Images.  I am restoring and adding new images all the time.
  High Resolution Post Image Available
 Enjoy your tour!

Search Streets, Buildings or Architects!   This is a single word search, so enter the most definitive word.  For example, if you are looking for the Masonic Temple, search "masonic"

Late 19th Century Chicago Buildings listed by Architect


Or go directly to one of these categories:

Links to Chicago's Landmarks & History
Link to Chicago History
              and Landmarks


  • Chicago Landmarks web site (linked from my Chicago Links page)
  •  The Chicago School of Architecture, A History of Commercial and Public Building in the Chicago Area, 1875-1925, by Carl W. Condit, published 1964
  • Louis Sullivan, His Life and Work, by Robert Twombly
  • The Architecture of John Wellborn Root, by Donald Hoffmann
  • Chicago's Famous Buildings, by Arthur Siegel, 1969
  • Burnham of Chicago, by Thomas S. Hines, 1979
  • Chicago Street Guide, published by Rand McNally, 1941
  • Lost Chicago, by David Low, American Legacy Press- 1975   (through the notes of John Hub and David Daruszka)
  • History of the Development of Building Construction in Chicago, by Frank A. Randall, University of Illinois Press  (notes of David Daruszka)
  • The Devil In The White City, by Erik Larson, 2003
  • Chicago, A Personal History of America's Most American City, by Finis Farr, 1973
  • Chicago, Its History and Its Builders, A Century of Marvelous Growth, by Seymour Carrey, 1912, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
            ... and, of course,  the postcards themselves!

Vintage Postcards
Tour the USA in Vintage Postcards!

Main Street In The Heartland

Naperville, Aurora, and other NE Illinois Towns

 Back to DuPage County, Illinois  History
You'll find all of my history, genealogy, and  vintage postcard web sites here


And links to my  friends' amazing genealogy, history and vintage postcard sites here:
Genealogy Friends

And don't forget my Atlanta Real Estate site at

  Background on this site was found through Marketwizz Internet Solutions
Chicago History
This Chicago and
Northern Illinois History 
site is owned by Pat Sabin
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