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Rent Books and Ledgers, Vice President for Business and Finance

Identifier: 7/1/4

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Scope and Contents

This series consists of the five Rent Books and one Rent Ledger that document Northwestern University's role as a major landlord in Evanston. The volumes cover the period from 1877 to 1915.

The first Rent Book (labeled "1877") covers the years 1877-1881. Entries are made by the surname of the leasee in the order that an individual made his first lease with the University. Additional leases are then entered under the account created, hence the Rent Book is arranged neither in strict alphabetical nor chronological order. There is no index to this volume, making use of it tedious although not difficult. The bulk of the University's rents were paid quarterly, with the remainder paid annually or semi-annually. At the head of each account is a description of the parcel and the terms of the lease. Also entered is the total income derived from the parcel as of 1881 when the Book was closed. In columns under this information are the amount of rent due and the dates due on the left and payments made and the dates on the right. Rent payments are entered chronologically under the parcel upon which they are due. On the right there is also a running total of income derived from the parcel. Leases were made with individuals, companies, and institutions such as churches.

Rent Book 2 (labeled "1881") covers the years 1881-1886. It is in the same format and contains the same information as Book 1. Leases in force when Rent Book 2 was opened are brought forward from Rent Book 1, but payments made prior to 1881 are not reentered. Cancelled and expired leases are not brought forward. Leases that were assigned to another party are listed under the new leasee's name, thus forming a new account. If a parcel had one leasee in Book 1 and another in Book 2 the first leasee is not mentioned in Book 2. This presents some difficulty if one is tracing a parcel of land rather than an individual. Rent Book 2 is not indexed. Correspondence concerning the forfeiture of a lot for nonpayment is mounted on page 2 of Rent Book 2.

Rent Book 3 (labeled "No. 3") covers the years 1887-1892. It is in the same format as the first two Rent Books. Book 3 is in basically alphabetical order by leasee's surname from page 1 to 168. From page 169 to 227 accounts that could not be fit into the space left for the original alphabetical arrangements are entered, as well as additional leases held by individuals in the main alphabetical list that could not be accomodated in their primary account.

Rent Book 4 (labeled "4") covers the years 1892-1903. The information at the head of each account contains the valuation of the rented parcel for the periods 1882-1892 and 1892-1902. Any adjustments made in rents due to changes in valuation are noted. Rent Book 4 is arranged in alphabetical order by leasee's surname. There are two alphabetical arrangements in Book 4. The first covers the years 1892-1900. The records are then carried forward to a second list of accounts covering the years 1901-1903. The second alphabet begins on page 118.

Rent Book 5 (labeled "Rent Ledger") is in a binder and covers the years 1904-1915. The volume is arranged into sections for general income leases, special purpose leases (i.e., Lunt Library Fund), and lands owned outside of Evanston (Wilmette, Chicago, etc.). Within each division accounts are listed alphabetically by the leasee's surname. At the head of each sheet is the abstract information and the terms of the lease. The transactions are made in a double entry format (rents owed, rents paid). Rent Book 5 is posted back to the page in Rent Book 4 on which the corresponding account appears.

The first five volumes of this series are original entry volumes covering the property leased out by Northwestern University and the amount of income derived therefrom. The sixth volume in this series is a rent ledger containing a record of all property leased or set aside by the edict of the Trustees for lease but not currently under a lease agreement. This Rent Ledger covers the years 1904-1915. It is divided into non-productive and productive land sections. The non-productive land sections is subdivided into unrestricted funds and funds earmarked for specific purposes, such as the Lunt Library or Evans Professorships. As these properties were not producing income they are arranged within the subdivisions by platted Block numbers. The productive lands are subdivided into a section that lists properties alphabetically by leasee's surname and two special sections: improved lands and general fund lands. Accounts are arranged alphabetically within these special sections.

The Rent Ledger provided the University with control over all its rental holdings. When a parcel of non-productive land was rented the page was filled out with the lease information and transferred into the productive land section.

Each sheet in the Rent Ledger contains both a common and abstract description of the parcel. If the land was non-productive the valuation of the parcel is listed, as is the balance that represents the University's equity in the land. If the land was productive the leasee, lease number, and terms of the lease are entered. Any improvements and their cost are noted. Income from the property is entered yearly as is the unpaid balance of the lease and the valuation of the land. Individual payments are not recorded in the Rent Ledger. Each letter of the alphabet has an index giving account holders names and numbers on the back of the lettered tab dividers.


  • 1877-1915


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored off-site and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.

Biographical / Historical

Northwestern University's Evanston Campus and the city of Evanston both originated with the purchase of 379 acres from John H. Foster by the University's Trustees in 1853. Over the next twelve years the University opened its doors, the village of Evanston was platted, recorded and incorporated, and the University acquired additional real estate holdings. The Trustees purchased the Billings, Robinson, and Snyder farms and were made a gift of lands owned by Orrington Lunt. These holdings made Northwestern the largest land owner in and around Evanston.

The early Trustees, most notably Dr. John Evans, foresaw the growth of the area around the new university and urged that, although Northwestern needed the funds from real estate sales, there should be a portion of the holdings reserved from sale as a long term investment. These lands were to be leased to provide income while the property appreciated and the University's assets grew. This policy was followed well into the twentieth century.


6.00 Volumes

Language of Materials



This series consists of the five Rent Books and one Rent Ledger that document Northwestern University's role as a major landlord in Evanston. The volumes cover the period from 1877 to 1915.


The volumes in this series are arranged in chronologcal order.

Method of Acquisition

The volumes were transferred to the Northwestern University Archives on May 15, 1980 by Ed Dublin/University Business Office as part of Acc. #80-74.

Related Materials

The Rent Books and Ledger series (7/1/4) is closely tied to the information in the Land Books (53/5). The Land Books detail the University's complete real estate hodings and the disposition of those holdings. The Rent Books and Ledger series supports the information in the Land Books series by providing greater detail about rental activity. The Real Estate Sales Record, 1886-1893 series (7/1/3) may also be of interest. The Archives holds a number of canceled leases in series 53/4 that may provide additional information on the University's rental activities.

Other Descriptive Information

Volumes 5 and 6 have been removed from their original post-bound covers and rebound with paper covers. Each volume has been split into several sections. Each, however, remains in its own book box.

Kevin B. Leonard 12/12/88

Processing Information

Thomas Dorst, March 1981.

Guide to the Rent Books and Ledgers, Vice President for Business and Finance
Thomas Dorst
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US