Clarke House Museum

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The Prairie Avenue Historic District, two blocks east of Michigan Avenue, is a rich preserve of 19th Century residential architecture. All the bigwigs lived on the Avenue in its heyday, including the Pullmans, the Armours, the Fields and the Kimballs. And of course, the Clarkes and the Glessners, whose houses are the focus of these 1-hour walking tours. The Clarke House, built in 1836, is Chicago's oldest surviving building. It's really the only place in Chicago to see how an early Chicago family lived. The furnishings and wallpaper are from the period. An informative time-line display in the basement tells how the histories of the house and city are intertwined. The restored Greek Revival home is also famous for having been moved three times from its original location on Michigan Avenue between 16th and 17th Streets. When the city moved it back to its current location near the original site in 1977, the Clarke house had to be hoisted over elevated train tracks. The nearby fortresslike Glessner House, erected in 1887, is one of the most important residences in the world architecturally because it was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson (who also designed Trinity Church of Boston). The tours are a wonderful way to learn about 19th Century Chicago. Both residences are museums--the Glessner House Museum nonprofit organization owns and operates the Glessner House while the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs owns and operates the Clarke House.