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Clarke House Museum

The Clarke House Museum is the oldest surviving building in the original Chicago city limits and is an important piece of the city’s architectural and social history. The house provides an insight into life in pre-Civil War Chicago, representing a period when the city was transforming from a small frontier town into a bustling urban center.


The Clarke House was built in 1836 for Henry Brown Clarke and his family. It originally stood at 17th and Michigan, which was at the southern edge of the city at that time. The Clarke family were among the early settlers of Chicago, and their home reflects the Greek Revival style of architecture, which was popular in the United States during that period.


The museum is located in the historic Prairie Avenue District in the Near South Side community area of Chicago. The exact address for reference is:

Clarke House Museum
1827 S. Indiana Avenue
Chicago, IL 60616

Features and Architectural Significance

  • Greek Revival Architecture: The house is noted for its Greek Revival architecture, which includes features such as a gabled roof and Doric columns.
  • Historical Furnishings: The interior is furnished with period pieces that reflect the lifestyle of a middle-class Chicago family in the late 1830s and 1840s.
  • Guided Tours: Visitors to the museum can take guided tours that offer insights into the Clarke family’s life and the broader history of Chicago during that era.
  • Educational Programs: The museum offers educational programs and workshops that delve into 19th-century living, culture, and the development of Chicago.

Preservation and Relocation

The Clarke House has been moved twice in its history. It was first relocated in the late 19th century to make way for the construction of the Illinois Central Railroad, and then again in 1977 to its current location. The moves were part of preservation efforts to save and restore the house.

Tips for Visiting

  • Admission: There is usually an admission fee, but check if there are free days or discounted rates for students, seniors, or residents.
  • Tour Schedule: The house can typically only be viewed as part of a guided tour, so check the schedule and plan to arrive in time for a tour.
  • Events: The museum hosts special events throughout the year, including holiday-themed tours and activities.
  • Accessibility: The museum may have limited accessibility due to its historic nature. Visitors with specific needs should contact the museum in advance to make accommodations.
  • Nearby Attractions: Combine your visit with other nearby historic sites and museums like the Glessner House Museum, which is just steps away from the Clarke House Museum.

Conclusion: Clarke House Museum

The Clarke House Museum serves as a tangible link to Chicago’s early days, offering a unique glimpse into the city’s history before the skyscrapers and bustling streets. It’s a cultural treasure for both history buffs and those interested in the evolution of urban America. A visit to this museum not only educates but also allows for reflection on the growth of Chicago from a small settlement to one of the largest cities in the United States.

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