Chicago is a city full of beautiful architecture and it all began with one of Chicago’s oldest domestic structures—the Clarke House. This Greek Revival house was built in 1836 by the Henry B. Clarke Family, a middle class family, during the city’s formative years before the Civil War. Now, the Clark House has been turned into a museum to showcase the city’s history.
Located just over a mile from the Printer’s Row apartments at AMLI 900, the Clarke House Museum is a must-see for anyone who loves history, architecture and everything Chicago.
Chicago’s oldest house
This museum will take you back to the 19th century as you walk through what life was like for a family in Chicago before the Civil War. The home’s fascinating history began at a time when Chicago received its city charter and much of the area was still undeveloped prairie, a far cry from the third largest city in the United States that it is today.
The Clarke House is a rare example of heavy timber framing and Chicago’s only surviving example of Greek Revival domestic architecture. The house also retains much of its original 1830s exterior finishing. The temple-front porticoes have been re-created to appear as they did prior to the removal in 1872.
Inside the house
The furnishings throughout the entire house is exquisite. You’ll see early- to mid-19th century furniture styles along with decorative arts and finishes. The Clarke’s had nine children, all growing up in a young Midwestern city. Inside the house, you’ll witness what it was like to live during that time in pre-Civil War Chicago.
The museum is home to many cozy gathering places. Guests can learn why public and private spaces were separated in this old home, and see the house’s only surviving hearth stone fireplace in the northeast sitting room.
Tours at the Clarke House focus on domestic life, with an emphasis on the importance of women and 1850s household management. Cookery, education, health, entertaining, fashion, childcare, finances and other issues were of importance to the early Victorian women.
The Clarke family’s personal story parallels the national narrative, from westward expansion through the turbulent years prior to the American Civil War. Explore the journey through Chicago’s early history and reflect on the perseverance of the American spirit.
Hour-long guided tours are now free. The Clarke House offers free hour-long guided tours at 1pm and 2:30pm on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Tours are limited to 15 people, and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Visit the Clarke House Museum at 1827 S. Indiana Ave.
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