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Waller & Beckwith Realty Co. Records

Identifier: Midwest-MS-WallerB

Scope and Content of the Collection

Records retained by Waller & Beckwith Realty Co., including general business files and legal documents. General files include city assessments and municipal regulations, rental agreements, tenant complaints, applications for employment, and contracts. There is also some material related to members of the Waller family, including wills, licenses, and a small amount of correspondence. Legal files include efforts to collect unpaid rent, lawsuits against the company and lawsuits the company brought against others, personal injury and property damage complaints, and insurance records. There are also nine ledgers used to record rental payments, various legal issues, and a calendar.

The bulk of the material dates from the 1920s-1940s, and documents financial difficulties and living conditions in Chicago during this time, as well as various changes and improvements to the city, including street widenings and the shift from trolleys to busses. Also unique to the era are the restrictive covenants enacted by neighborhood associations, and documents detailing prohibition violations by tenants.


  • Creation: 1911-1976
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1921 - 1943



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Waller & Beckwith Realty Co. Records are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Waller & Beckwith Realty Co. Records are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

History of Waller & Beckwith Realty Co.

Family-owned Chicago real estate company.

The Waller family arrived in Chicago from Kentucky in the 1860s, when James B. Waller settled on the north side of the city. He developed the surrounding area into the Buena Park neighborhood, and established a real estate company with his brothers William, Edward, and Henry. James B. Waller died in 1887 and the company remained in the Waller family. James B. Waller's grandson, also named James B. Waller (b.1888), took over as president in 1920, partnering with James L. Beckwith.

Among the buildings managed by Waller & Beckwith was the Pattington, located at 660-700 W. Irving Park Blvd. Constructed in 1904 and included in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the u-shaped, multi-unit building with connecting courtyards was bought by Waller & Beckwith in 1923 and managed by them for many years. The company kept offices there until the 1970s.

James B. Waller (b.1888) attended Princeton and Harvard universities, and in addition to running the family real estate company, served as alderman of Chicago's 43rd ward for two terms. He was married twice, first to Sarah I. Given, from 1925-1935, and then to Nettie Johnson from 1935 until his death in 1949. James L. Beckwith died in 1955, at the age of 69.

While the offices of Waller & Beckwith were located in the Pattington, the Waller family occupied a home at 1365 N. Astor Street in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago. Now the headquarters of the Society of Architectural Historians and known as the Charnley-Persky house, the structure was designed by Louis Sullivan in the early 1890s and owned by the Waller family from 1918 to 1969. The Waller & Beckwith Realty Co. records were initially acquired by the Charnley-Persky House Museum Foundation, in hopes there would be information related to the house among the papers. As there was not, the materials were donated to the Newberry Library.


17.5 Linear Feet (18 boxes and 9 volumes)


Business records of Waller & Beckwith Realty Co., a family-owned Chicago real estate company, including general business files and legal documents. Papers include city assessments and municipal regulations, rent payments, leases, tenant complaints, applications for employment, contracts, collections, lawsuits, and insurance records. Covering primarily 1920-1940, the collection documents living conditions in Chicago and changes in the city during the Depression years and the period between two World Wars.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: General Files, 1911-1976
Boxes 1-11
Series 2: Legal Files, 1918-1943
Boxes 12-18
Series 3: Ledgers, 1920-1942
Volumes 1-9

Collection Stack Location

1 35 6-7


Gift of the Charnley-Persky House Museum Foundation and the Pattington Condominium Association, 2010.

Processed by

Kelly Kress, 2011.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Waller & Beckwith Realty Co. Records, 1911-1976, bulk 1921-1943
Kelly Kress
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States