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Neighborhoods-Prairie Avenue district
Prairie Avenue was one of Chicago's most fashionable neighborhoods, home to the likes of Marshall Field (retailer), Phillip Armour (meat packing), William Kimball (pianos) and George Pullman (Pullman railway cars). One of the signs on the street says that 77 millionaires lived here during it's prime which was from 1872-1904 when the last house of that era was built. Since then many of the mansions in this area were demolished when the area was less than fashionable to live in but there are a few examples remaining.
There are two landmark homes in this area that are open to visit. The Clarke House, located at 1837 S. Indiana, is Chicago's oldest house. It was originally located just a block or so away, was moved south to the 4526 S. Wabash and then moved back to this location. The other is Glessner House at 1800 S. Prairie. Both of these have tours, Wednesday is free, otherwise, it's $10 to visit one or $15 to visit both. I went into both during the Open House weekend on abbreviated tours, interesting but not a top tier attraction.
The Wheeler Mansion, 2020 S. Calumet, has been turned into a B&B, on the expensive side for Chicago, but beautifully decorated.
Please see my travelogue below for more information on this area.
I did like this place. Not so much because it's the oldest building in Chicago (1836) but because of its setting.
Clarke House is rather lovely, with a timber frame and a 'Parthenon'-style entrance. Originally it was set in a forested area (amazing to think of that!) and has actually been moved twice: its present site is only a couple of blocks away from where it first stood.
Unfortunately the house itself was closed when I visited (there are tours at 12 and 2 Wednesdays-Sundays) but I very much enjoyed wandering the grounds which now form the Chicago Women's Park (open daily). Lots of trees, rabbits, birds, winding paths, a herb garden...apple trees too (very nice apples, I must admit) and an area of 'heirloom' vegetable plots.
- Museum Visits
Prairie Avenue is designated an 'historic district' so I thought I'd better explore a bit of it.
The district is easy enough to get to bus, or you could take the Metra to 18th Street or the El to Chinatown/Cermak and walk from there. But buses 1, 3 and 4 are very convenient, all stopping at S Michigan Ave/E 18th Street.
Prairie Avenue was *the* place to live in Chicago for a while in the 1800s. There were, apparently, many huge and wonderful homes built in the area by the mega-rich but, unfortunately, only a few survive.
I had a brief wander around, looking at the exterior of the two buildings which are open to the public: the Glessner House (1886) and the much more attractively (imo) Clarke House (Chicago's oldest, built in 1836...see separate tip). Along tree-lined Prairie Avenue I spotted several large, mid-late 1800s properties but none of these are accessible to the public.
If you have time it's certainly worth taking a wander round the area but, to be honest, visiting Second Presbyterian church (see separate tip) is the only absolute 'must'.
- Historical Travel
Prairie Historical District
In a callous way, the Chicago Political Machine is letting this area of the city lose a lot of its historical look by, of course, letting everyone build historical looking condos around there. Its still worth a look, for now. You can see some great architecture that survived the Great Fire. This is where the Searses and the Fields' lived, among others. There are quite a few plaques in and around the area that explain what is what and where and why. A lot of the old history, like from the Indian days, is centered here. 18th and Prairie
- Historical Travel
The Oldest House in Chicago
Behind this house is a monument to the Ft. Dearborn massacre, where 95 settlers and soldiers were massacred as they were being evacuated. The house looks southern to me. It was built in 1836. Tours are available. It is at 18th and Indiana.
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