Historic Homes In Chicago You Should Visit
Chicago is a city steeped in history, and one of the best ways to experience its rich heritage is by visiting its historic homes. These architectural gems offer a glimpse into the past, showcasing the cultural and social legacy of the city. From the oldest house in Chicago to the birthplace of renowned author Ernest Hemingway, each home has a story to tell. Let’s take a journey through time and explore some of the most significant historic homes in Chicago.
Clarke-Ford House Museum: Chicago’s Oldest Home
Our journey begins with the Clarke-Ford House Museum, located at 1827 S. Indiana Ave. Constructed in 1835, it is considered the oldest house in Chicago. This stately home, built in the Greek Revival style, stood amidst undeveloped prairie land during its early years. Surviving two moves and a fire, the Clarke-Ford House has witnessed the transformation of the city. Step inside, and you’ll be transported back to a time before the Civil War, gaining insights into the lifestyle and architecture of early Chicago.
Ernest Hemingway’s Birthplace: Discover the Roots of a Literary Legend
Just west of Chicago, in Oak Park, lies the birthplace of one of America’s most celebrated authors, Ernest Hemingway. Located at 339 N Oak Park Ave, this Victorian-style home is where Hemingway spent the first six years of his life. Born in 1899, Hemingway drew inspiration from the surrounding trails and prairies for his famous novels. Step into the house where the literary genius took his first breaths and gain a deeper understanding of the early influences that shaped his writing career.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio: Enter the Mind of an Architectural Visionary
Oak Park is renowned for its collection of homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio at 951 Chicago Ave is a must-visit for architecture enthusiasts. Purchased by Wright in 1889, this house served as both his residence and studio. Every aspect of the structure, from the exterior to the furniture and lighting, was meticulously designed by Wright himself. It was within these walls that Wright developed his iconic Prairie School architectural style, which revolutionized the field. Immerse yourself in the world of this architectural genius and witness the birthplace of his visionary ideas.
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum: A Beacon of Social Change
Located at 800 S. Halsted St., the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum stands as a testament to the social change achievements of Jane Addams and other reformers. The Hull House, established as one of the first social settlements in North America, provided a haven for immigrants arriving in Chicago during the late 19th century. Beyond offering essential services, such as daycares and educational classes, the leaders of the Hull House played pivotal roles in women’s suffrage, child labor laws, and trade union organizations. Explore the museum to gain insights into the progressive movements that shaped Chicago’s history.
Glessner House: A Landmark of American Domestic Architecture
On historic Prairie Avenue, known as Millionaire’s Row, stands the imposing Glessner House at 1800 S. Prairie Ave. Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, this fortress-like structure redefined American domestic architecture upon its completion in 1887. A National Historic Landmark, the house boasts a central courtyard, warm oak-paneled interiors, a grand staircase, and stately fireplaces. Step inside to admire the extraordinary collection of furniture and decorative objects that reflect the opulence of the Gilded Age. Don’t miss the exhibitions, lectures, special events, and Prairie Avenue walking tours that further enrich the experience.
Cable House: A Mansion with a Storied Past
Designed by Cobb & Frost in 1886, the Cable House at 25 E. Erie St. stands as a testament to the grand mansions that once dotted Chicago’s landscape. Originally built for the president of the Rock Island & Pacific Railway, the Cable House has had a fascinating journey. It was later purchased by Robert McCormick, who transformed it into his son’s residence. Today, the house serves as the headquarters of Driehaus Capital Management, owned by Richard Driehaus, a noted preservationist and philanthropist. Admire the architectural beauty of this mansion and appreciate its role in Chicago’s history.
Charnley-Persky House Museum: A Collaboration of Architectural Giants
The Charnley-Persky House Museum at 1365 N. Astor St. is a testament to the collaborative genius of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. Completed in 1892, the house showcases Sullivan’s love for geometric and abstract forms, with Wright serving as his junior draftsman at the time. The interior features a dramatic two-story atrium and decoration inspired by organic plant forms, reflecting Wright’s evolving aesthetic. As the headquarters of the Society of Architectural Historians, the museum offers guided tours that delve into the architectural significance of the house and its historical context.
Emil Bach House: A Frank Lloyd Wright Gem on the Lakefront
Located near the Chicago lakefront at 7415 N. Sheridan Road, the Emil Bach House is a hidden gem among Frank Lloyd Wright’s residential commissions. Built in 1915, this architectural masterpiece showcases Wright’s Japanese-inspired design elements, including a Japanese Tea House and serene gardens. The symmetrical and self-contained geometry of the house reflects Wright’s unique style. For a truly immersive experience, consider booking an overnight stay at the home and immerse yourself in the world of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Frederick C. Robie House: An Icon of Prairie-Style Architecture
Considered the epitome of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style architecture, the Frederick C. Robie House at 5757 S. Woodlawn Ave. is a must-see for architecture enthusiasts. Completed in 1910, this architectural marvel is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site and a National Historic Landmark. With its horizontal lines, overhanging eaves, and integration with the surrounding landscape, the Robie House exemplifies Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture. Explore the house through guided or self-guided audio tours offered by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.
Richard H. Driehaus Museum: Explore the Gilded Age
Located at 40 E. Erie St., the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, also known as the Nickerson Mansion, offers a glimpse into the opulence of the Gilded Age. Built in the late 19th century, this “Marble Palace” features grand staircases, ornate decorative arts, imposing fireplaces, and antique furnishings. Meticulously restored, the museum explores the art, architecture, and design of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Don’t miss the rotating exhibits that delve into the cultural and social aspects of the Gilded Age.
Historic homes in Chicago are more than just architectural wonders; they are portals to a bygone era. From the oldest house in the city to the birthplace of literary icons and the visionary designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, each home tells a unique story. By exploring these historic homes, you can immerse yourself in Chicago’s rich heritage and gain a deeper appreciation for the cultural and social legacy that shaped the city we know today. So, embark on a journey through time and witness the wonders of Chicago’s historic homes firsthand.