Chicago's Oldest House

Clarke House Museum 1827 South Indiana Avenue Chicago

Not So Little House on Prairie/Chicago's Oldest House
Written By VAMONDE

Digital Storytelling and Visitor Analytics for City and Cultural Institutions

Now situated in the middle of the Chicago Women's Park and Garden, the Clarke House has truly survived the test of time. Originally built in 1836 for Henry and Caroline Clarke, the home was unique to the prairie, soon-to-be called Chicago because of its Greek Revival style. 

Mrs. Clarke, a woman from a well-to-do family in New York, had a lot of influence over the style of the house. This was a popular style for the homes in New York at the time and she wanted a piece of home since Mr. Clarke moved the family to Chicago to deal in the hardware and agriculture business. Unfortunately Mr. Clarke died of the cholera epidemic in 1849, which left Caroline to fend for herself and her children. 

The original location of the house was somewhere between present day Lake Michigan and State Street, between 16th and 17th Street. Because of the home's location, it survived The Great Chicago Fire and made Mr. Clarke a trailblazer of the soon to be wealthy Prairie Avenue District. After his death, Mrs. Clarke was forced to divide up the land and sell it to survive until eventually the adult Clarke children sold the home to John Grimes. Grimes wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle and moved the home even further south to 45th and Wabash, in present day Bronzeville. 

Another change in ownership, this time by Bishop Henry Louis Ford, meant another move. Bishop Ford knew the important role this house played in Chicago's history and wanted the city to move it back to its original neighborhood. If you find yourself on the CTA's Green Line before pulling into the 43rd Street station going north, you are where the Clarke house was actually stuck right next to the "L" tracks for two weeks because the hydraulic lifts froze in the winter of 1977. 

The restored home is now back in its original neighborhood, although pretty much everything is a replica of what would of been in the home when the Clarke's resided there. If you find yourself on a tour, try and spot the one thing that's an original or just ask. 

Did You Know?

The Greek Revival style called for symmetry. The home is exactly the same on both sides, with one exception. See if you can spot the difference once inside. 

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Not So Little House on Prairie

Chicago's Oldest House

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