Noble Seymour Crippen House

Noble–Seymour–Crippen House: A Historic Landmark in Chicago

 

‍The Noble–Seymour–Crippen House stands tall at 5624 North Newark Avenue in the Norwood Park community area of Chicago. This magnificent mansion has a rich history and is considered a historic landmark in the city. Built in 1833, it holds the distinction of being the oldest existing building in Chicago. Over the years, it has witnessed the growth and transformation of the city and remains a testament to its architectural heritage.

The Noble Family: Pioneers of Chicago

In 1831, Mark Noble Sr., an English immigrant, arrived in the settlement that would eventually become Chicago. Along with his family, he joined a small community of fewer than 100 people near Fort Dearborn. The Nobles initially rented the former home of John Kinzie, built and occupied by Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable. With a small fortune in gold, Noble decided to invest in real estate, cattle farming, and sawmills, diversifying his wealth. During the Black Hawk War in 1832, the Nobles played a crucial role in averting a famine by supplying and butchering cattle to feed the settlers at Fort Dearborn.

The Noble House: A Testament to Early Chicago Architecture

In 1833, Mark Sr. and Margaret Noble claimed over 150 acres of prairie land, where they built their home on Union Ridge, a glacial moraine. Unlike many log cabins of the time, the Noble house was constructed using sawn lumber from their own Bickerdike-Noble Sawmill. This distinctive home, made of white pine on a brick foundation, still stands as the oldest house in Chicago.

Devout Methodists, the Nobles were among the founding members of Chicago’s first Methodist congregation, established in 1831. The Noble house became a hub for religious activities, hosting circuit-riding ministers and religious classes. Mark Noble Sr. even built a small church on the property in 1838, although its exact location remains unknown.

The Seymour Era: Expansion and Italianate Style

In 1868, Thomas Hartley Seymour, a member of the Chicago Board of Trade, purchased the Noble house and surrounding land. To accommodate his large family and servants, he added an Italianate style northern wing to the house. The roof of the original section was raised, creating a second floor and allowing for the installation of round, arched windows. The south wing of the house also received a wood-frame summer kitchen. The Seymour family lived on the first floor of the Noble house, using it as a dining room, while the second floor served as the servants’ quarters.

The Crippen Legacy: Community Contributions and Transformation

In 1916, the Crippen family, consisting of concert pianist Charlotte Allen Crippen and her husband, Stuart Crippen, purchased the Noble-Seymour House. Initially used as a summer residence, the house lacked modern amenities. However, by 1918, plumbing and electricity were added, and the Crippens made Norwood Park their permanent residence.

The Crippen family played an active role in their community, sponsoring community theater and musical productions. They also founded the local Little League program and raised funds for a World War II hospital plane named “The Spirit of Norwood Park.” Additionally, they were founding members of the Norwood Park Baptist Church and hosted its first services in their living room.

Preservation and Recognition as a Historic Landmark

The Norwood Park Historical Society purchased the Noble-Seymour-Crippen House and the remaining 1.7 acres of land in 1987. This acquisition allowed the society to transform the house into its headquarters, museum, archives, and a community center. The house received official recognition as a City of Chicago Historical Landmark on May 11, 1988, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 10, 2000.

The Noble–Seymour–Crippen House Today

Today, the Noble–Seymour–Crippen House serves as a multipurpose community center, hosting the Norwood Park Historical Society Museum and various educational programs. The museum showcases the history of Chicago’s far northwest side and houses a growing collection of historical artifacts and research materials. The house has even made appearances in movies, including “The Babe,” starring John Goodman.

Thanks to generous grants from the State of Illinois, the Norwood Park Historical Society has been able to undertake extensive restoration efforts. Both the exterior and interior of the house have undergone changes to restore its early 20th-century appearance. Modernizations, such as central air-conditioning and a handicapped accessible restroom, have been added to make the building more functional. The surrounding landscape has also been improved, with the removal of diseased trees, addition of new trees, and installation of brick walkways and parking lot edging.

The Noble–Seymour–Crippen House stands as a testament to the rich history and architectural heritage of Chicago’s Norwood Park community. From its humble beginnings as a farmhouse to its transformation into a grand mansion, this historic landmark has witnessed the growth and development of the city. Today, it serves as a museum and community center, preserving the past and educating future generations about the vibrant history of Chicago’s northwest side.

Additional Information: The Noble–Seymour–Crippen House is open to the public for tours and community events, allowing visitors to experience the charm and beauty of this historic gem firsthand.

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