The Vault: Before the Internet, There Was Olcott’s

Baird & Warner has one of the most comprehensive collections of Olcott’s Land Values Blue Book, the original Chicago-area real estate resource.

Started by George C. Olcott in 1909, the books were a helpful guide for agents as they researched the land values of areas in Chicago and the suburbs. A set of them would be housed in each office for reference.

Housed in the Family Room at Baird & Warner’s headquarters is a copy of nearly every book, published from 1911 to 1989.

Olcott’s calculated land values by visiting each property, interviewing local real estate dealers, and analyzing sales records.

A new edition was published every year — except for 1917 and 1918 — until the 1990s. Sellers and buyers read the books, and they were so highly regarded that real estate companies would advertise in the front of these books.

As the city grew, so did the content of Olcott’s, and the volumes began increasing in pages over the years. Suburban land values were added in 1912. In 1933, classes of buildings were added as illustrations, and books in the following year added pages explaining zoning restrictions for the city and each of the suburbs.

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