Explore Our Local History

black and white photo of a birds eye view of Niles Center Road split
Aerial Photograph of Niles Center, Illinois, circa 1924

How much do you know about Skokie? Did you know that our town wasn’t called “Skokie” until 1940? Do you know who Harms Road and Harms Woods are named after? When was your home built and who lived there before you? What was the name of that great teacher you had at Niles East? (Yes, “East”!)

Preservation is one of the core values of library service. Jessica Goodman, our digital collections librarian, writes: “The term preservation can conjure images of hushed rooms full of handwritten documents and ancient leather-bound books. Though that describes some archives, preservation in public libraries typically means collecting meaningful images, documents, books, and other materials in a way that ensures they can be accessed now and in the future.”

black and white photo of a building
8000 Lincoln Avenue Commercial Building Photograph, circa 1930

We have a treasure trove of resources devoted to local history available in print and online. We’ve acquired and maintained more than 700 photos and artifacts from the history of our local fire department. We host an in-depth exploration of the life and work of Skokie’s first woman physician, Louise Klehm, MD, and an online exhibit examining the history of Skokie’s 1967 Fair Housing ordinance. And those are just a few of the resources you can use to learn more about Skokie’s past.

You can also find extensive local newspaper coverage, video, and audio recordings documenting the controversy surrounding the National Socialist (Nazi) Party of America’s attempt to march in Skokie in 1977 and 1978.

color photo of people protesting and holding signs in front of Village Hall.
Protest against Nazi march in front of Village Hall. Photo credit David Kantro

We also have both print and digital editions of the 1988 publication Skokie: A Centennial History, which commemorates 100 years of the village. Search the collections of the Skokie History Project for fascinating maps, architectural drawings, aerial photos of the village over time, and extensive images of the people and places that were here in days gone by.

Relive your own more recent Skokie history with our collection of high school yearbooks and local newspapers. Maybe you can’t remember the name of your favorite corner store, or you want to figure out when exactly it was that you saw your favorite movie in the theater. Our staff have spent hours digitizing records so that you can search in telephone and business directories, look for articles and obituaries, and more. But if you like doing things the old-fashioned way, you can still browse print materials and microfilm at the library.

black and white photo of a homecoming court
1988 Niles West homecoming king and queen

You can also learn more about the history of the library building and our permanent art collection. You can read minutes from our Board of Trustee meetings going back to 1958 and revisit important moments when we’ve gathered to share our stories, such as the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2017 solar eclipse.

Whether you’re a serious researcher or are casually curious, you can enjoy the wealth of resources you’ll find through our local history web page. And if you need more help, our staff are happy to point you in the right direction. Who knows what history mysteries you might uncover, Skokie sleuths. Just don’t get lost in time!