The Richard H. Driehaus Museum: A Glimpse into the Gilded Age
Welcome to the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Chicago’s Near North Side. This exquisite museum provides visitors with a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the grandeur and opulence of the Gilded Age. As you wander through the halls of the historic Samuel M. Nickerson House, now home to the museum, you’ll be transported to an era of lavish parties, intricate craftsmanship, and unparalleled elegance.
A Storied History
The Richard H. Driehaus Museum is not just a museum; it is a testament to the rich history of Chicago and the individuals who shaped it. The mansion itself, designed by the renowned architect Edward J. Burling, was completed in 1883 for Samuel M. Nickerson, a prominent Chicago banker. It quickly gained a reputation as the most expensive and elaborate private residence in the city at the time.
Over the years, the mansion changed hands several times, with notable owners such as Lucius George Fisher, a paper magnate, and the American College of Surgeons, who used it as administrative space. However, in 2003, Richard H. Driehaus, a Chicago businessman, philanthropist, and art collector, acquired the building with a vision to preserve and promote classical architecture and design.
The Driehaus Museum Experience
When you step through the doors of the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, you’ll be greeted by a stunning display of architectural beauty and artistic mastery. The interiors of the mansion have been meticulously restored to reflect the design and decorating tastes of Gilded Age America and the Art Nouveau era. Marble, onyx, exotic woods, glazed tiles, and stained glass adorn every corner, creating a truly immersive experience.
The museum’s collection features a remarkable array of American and European decorative arts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the highlights is the extensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, including his iconic stained glass windows and exquisite Favrile glass pieces. These treasures, along with original furnishings from the Nickerson era, offer a glimpse into the luxurious lifestyle of the time.
Exhibitions and Programs
The Richard H. Driehaus Museum is not just a static display of art and artifacts. It is a dynamic institution that offers a wide range of exhibitions and programs to engage and educate visitors of all ages. The museum hosts both permanent and temporary exhibitions, showcasing the work of renowned artists and designers from the Gilded Age and beyond.
One of the current exhibitions at the museum is “France’s Most Important Art Nouveau Architect Takes Center Stage,” which explores the life and work of Hector Guimard, a leading figure in the Art Nouveau movement. This comprehensive exhibition delves deep into Guimard’s architectural and design legacy, highlighting his signature style that defined Art Nouveau between 1890 and 1930.
In addition to exhibitions, the museum also offers a variety of programs and events designed to enhance the visitor experience. From guided tours that delve into the history and architecture of the mansion to recorded programs that provide a virtual exploration of the collections, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Membership and Support
If you find yourself captivated by the beauty and history of the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, consider becoming a member. Membership offers a host of benefits, including exclusive access to special exhibitions, discounts at the museum store, and invitations to members-only events. By joining as a member, you not only gain access to all the museum has to offer but also contribute to the preservation and promotion of this cultural gem.
For those who wish to make a more significant impact, the museum welcomes donations. Your support helps fund educational and cultural experiences that explore the many facets of the Gilded Age. Whether it’s a one-time donation or a corporate partnership, every contribution ensures the continued success and growth of the Richard H. Driehaus Museum.
Visit the Richard H. Driehaus Museum
Located at 40 East Erie Street in Chicago, the Richard H. Driehaus Museum is easily accessible by public transportation. Several CTA bus routes and Chicago ‘L’ stations are within walking distance, making it convenient for both locals and tourists to visit. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday, with varying hours, so be sure to check the website for the most up-to-date information.
Admission prices for the museum are as follows:
- Adults: $20
- Seniors (65+): $15
- Students (with I.D.): $10
- Children 12 and under: Free
- Active military personnel: Free
- Museum Members: Free
Plan Your Visit to the Driehaus Museum
To make the most of your visit to the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, take advantage of the guided tours offered. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours provide in-depth insights into the history, architecture, and collections of the museum. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply curious about the Gilded Age, these tours offer a comprehensive and enriching experience.
Before you visit, it’s essential to plan your trip accordingly. The museum’s website provides a wealth of information to help you prepare, including frequently asked questions, accessibility details, and even a downloadable app to enhance your visit. Additionally, be sure to check for any updates or special exhibitions happening during your visit to ensure you don’t miss out on any exciting experiences.
The Driehaus Museum Blog
For those seeking a deeper dive into the history and design of the Nickerson Mansion, the Driehaus Museum’s blog is a treasure trove of information. From articles exploring the collections and exhibitions to insights into the art and culture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the blog offers a wealth of knowledge for curious minds. So, take a moment to explore the blog and discover the fascinating stories behind the museum’s artifacts.
The Richard H. Driehaus Museum stands as a testament to the beauty and extravagance of the Gilded Age. With its meticulously restored interiors, extensive collection of decorative arts, and engaging exhibitions and programs, it offers a truly immersive experience for visitors. Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, or simply looking for a unique cultural experience, a visit to the Richard H. Driehaus Museum is sure to transport you to a bygone era of elegance and refinement.