Local History Room
Our local history collection includes biographical information, house history information, newspaper clippings, local newspapers, oral histories, city directories, high school yearbooks, photographs, and more. The Local History Room is located on the First Floor, and is available by appointment only. Please contact local history and genealogy librarian, EvaAnne Johnson, to set up an appointment.
Local History Reads
Ouilmette : life in 1847.
Special 75th anniversary supplement issue of the Wilmette Life, published in 1947, covering the history of the village of Wilmette from its earliest settlement to 1947.
Antoine Ouilmette : a resident of Chicago A. D. 1790-1826
Antoine Ouilmette : a resident of Chicago A. D. 1790-1826 : the first settler of Evanston and Wilmette (1826-1838) with a brief history of his family and the Ouilmette reservation
Creating Chicago's North Shore
They are the suburban jewels that crown one of the world's premier cities. Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff: together, they comprise the North Shore of Chicago, a social registry of eight communities that serve as a genteel enclave of affluence, culture, and high society. Historian Michael H. Ebner explains the origins and evolution of the North Shore as a distinctive region. At the same time, he tells the paradoxical story of how these suburbs, with their common heritage, mutual values, and shared aspirations, still preserve their distinctly separate identities. Embedded in this history are important lessons about the uneasy development of the American metropolis.
Wilmette and the suburban whirl
A series of historical essays on the village, originally printed in the Wilmette Life in the 1950s. This book is also available online through the Library's Local History Digital Collection.
Looking Back: Essays on Wilmette History
From the evolution of street lighting to the railroad crossing controversy to the making of Wilmette Harbor, Dave Leach enthusiastically explored fascinating nooks and crannies of Wilmette history in his essays in the Village newsletter. This volume collects a generous helping of favorites, illustrated with photos from the Wilmette Historical Museum’s collection.
From No Man's Land to Plaza Del Lago
This book by Robert Shea tells about the dispute over No Man's Land, Illinois, an unincorporated strip of land in between Wilmette and Kenilworth, Illinois. The title refers to Plaza del Lago shopping center, which had been created as a revitalization of the former 'Spanish Court' shopping center during the area's rejuvenation.
Wilmette is best known for its tree-lined, brick-paved streets, nice homes, and lovely lakefront. Yet a peek beneath this placid suburban surface reveals a surprisingly lively history, ranging from the early years of hardscrabble farms carved out of dense forest to decades of conflict with German-speaking tavern owners in the culturally distinctive village of Gross Point. "No Man's Land" along Sheridan Road once sported a dazzling movie palace and a Jazz Age nightclub, along with hot dog stands, beach clubs, and speakeasies that defied Wilmette's buttoned-down reputation. The huge engineering effort to reverse the flow of the Chicago River bestowed on the village a cozy harbor and a busy lakefront park, both soon dominated by the massively incongruous but serenely beautiful Baha'i Temple. Hometown to such diverse figures as Charlton Heston, Ann-Margret, Bill Murray, Pete Wentz, and Rahm Emanuel, Wilmette has long been a fine place to grow up, as well as a bustling, civic-minded community with more than its share of surprises.
On the trail of history : a kid's guide to Wilmette's past
A history of Wilmette for young readers. Lively narrative, imaginative layout, "fun facts," and over 50 photographs, drawings and maps.
Wilmette: a history
History of the town of Wilmette, Illinois from the first settlement by the Ouilmette family, to the year of America's bicentennial in 1976. With many photos, maps, drawings, newspaper clippings.
Wilmette at 150
Wilmette at 150 is a collection of illuminating stories that feature and celebrate the people, places, and events that have shaped the village and created its unique character over the last century and a half. These stories present the grandeur of the lakefront, the turmoil of No Man's Land, the devastation wrought by a Palm Sunday tornado, the beauty of a tree memorial built for blind Judge Kolman, the final moments of notorious gangster Baby Face Nelson, the inspirational visit by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to promote racial justice and unity, and much more.
John Jacoby, a long-time Wilmette resident and former Village President (1989-1997), weaves all these stories into a fabric of village history-a history that includes success and failure, joy and tragedy, principle and pragmatism, unity and division. Wilmette at 150 is a tapestry that both honors the past and welcomes the future with insight, energy, and confidence.
Local History Databases
Chicago Community Collection
Explore news coverage from more than 270 daily and weekly Chicagoland-area sources, including major titles such as the Chicago Sun-Times and the Daily Herald, plus a wealth of community and regional news sources.
Chicago Tribune Historical 1849-1986
The Chicago Tribune offers full page and article images with searchable full text back to the first issue (April 23, 1849).
Find My Past
Find My Past hosts billions of searchable genealogical records, drawing from census, directory, and historical information.
Heritage Quest Online
Explore your family history with the premier collection of U.S. obituaries and death notices for in-depth genealogical research from 1704 – today.
Local History Digital Collection
Access digitized materials from Wilmette Public Library's local history collection including photographs, newspapers, and indexes.
New York Times Historical 1851-2017
Full-text content including articles and obituaries from the New York Times archive, covering 1851-2017.
NewspaperARCHIVE.com is a historical newspaper database that contains tens of millions of newspaper pages from 1607 to present.