Street Address
1827 S. Indiana Ave.
Chicago, IL 60616
Mailing Address
1827 S. Indiana Ave.
Chicago, IL 60616
Hours
Closed on Major Holidays
Sunday, Wednesday - Saturday12 PM - 2 PM
Tours start at the Glessner House Museum, 1800 S. Prairie Avenue; Wednesday through Sunday at Noon and 2:00pm.
Admissions
$10 adults;
$9 seniors/students;
$6 children (5-12);
children under 5 free
Both Clarke and Glessner House Museums may be toured at a discounted admission:adults $15, seniors & students $12, children 5–12 years old $8
Staff
Lynne Mickle Smaczny, Assistant to Director
phone: 312-326-1480

Description

Built in 1836 for Henry B. Clarke, the Clarke House Museum is Chicago’s oldest house. The house shows what life was like for a middle-class family in Chicago during the city’s formative years before the Civil War. Its fascinating history began at a time when family members could see the campfires of Native Americans in the distance.

Over the years, the house survived fires, belonged to a church, and was moved twice – during the second move, the house was stuck in the air for two weeks. The house is now located in the Chicago Women’s Park in the Prairie Avenue Historic District, and operated as a museum by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

History

In 1833, the departure of the Native Americans opened the area to new settlement. At that time, the population of Chicago was 350 people; by 1837, the year Chicago was incorporated as a city, the population had already risen to 4,000.

Henry Brown Clarke, a merchant from Utica, New York, migrated to Chicago in 1835, having heard of the prairie town’s economic promise from his brother-in-law, Charles Walker. Engaged in the shipment of guns, boots and leather, Mr. Walker had come to Chicago earlier that same year, not only to seek his fortune, but to buy land and settle in “the West.” Caroline Palmer Clarke and two of her three young children soon followed her husband to Chicago.

In June of 1835, Mr. Clarke bought twenty acres of land and acquired an interest in the remainder of a quarter-section of land along the south shore of Lake Michigan, reportedly for the price of $10,000. The smaller tract was bordered by the lake on the east and by what are today State Street on the west, 16th Street on the north, and 17th Street on the south. In November 1835, the Clarkes moved into an existing log cabin on the twenty-acre plot built by the property’s original owner.

For the site of his family’s new residence, Mr. Clarke chose a section of land on what is now Michigan Avenue in the vicinity of 1700 south. To the west stretched the nearly limitless prairie, with its tall grasses and plentiful game. In 1836, the Clarkes built a sturdy home with timber frame construction in the Greek Revival style. One and a half miles south of its nearest neighbor, the Clarke House could only be reached via an old American Indian path (today’s Michigan Avenue) that ran in front of the new homes’s west entrance. Mr. Clarke became a partner in the wholesale hardware firm of Jones, King and Company. Their firm dealt in construction, farming, and trapping implements that were in great demand in the rapidly growing city of Chicago and throughout the Midwest.

Governance

Building owned and maintained by the City of Chicago; Collections owned and maintained by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Illinois; Tours operated by the Glessner House Museum; Surrounding park owned and maintained by the Chicago Park District.

ADA

Wheelchair Accessible