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Best Spots for Teaching Kids About Chicago History

March 2, 2011 7:00 AM

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Children Chicago History
There’s a lot more to Chicago history than Mrs. O’Leary’s cow and the last time the Cubbies won the World Series. From the city’s founding in 1833 to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition to Al Capone and Prohibition to the 1968 Democratic Convention – the history of the City of Chicago has reflected the history of the nation, but always with its own unique flavor. As we say good-bye to one Mayor Daley, tell your kids that there was once another Mayor Daley and see where the conversation leads. In case they want to learn more, here are some of the best spots to teach your kids about the history of the City of Chicago.

Clarke and Glessner House Museums

1827 S. Indiana Ave
Chicago IL 60616
312 -326-1480
www.explorechicago.org

Have you ever wondered what the oldest house in Chicago is? Well, wonder no more. It’s the Henry B. Clarke House which dates from 1836. Now located in the Chicago Women’s Park in the Prairie Avenue Historic District, the Clarke House has been converted to a museum showcasing the life of a middle-class Chicago family in the years leading up to the Civil War. Guided tours are available Wednesday through Sunday at noon and 2 pm. Combine your visit to the Clarke House Museum with a stop at the nearby Glessner House, a masterpiece of residential design built in the 1880’s. Glessner House is home to an impressive collection of 19th century furnishings and decorative arts. Discounted tickets are available when touring both museums.

Chicago History Museum

1601 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
312-642-4600
www.chicagohs.org

Formerly known as the Chicago Historical Society, the Chicago History Museum is the oldest cultural institution in the city, dating back to the 1850’s. Most of its early collection was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Since then, the Chicago History Museum has been collecting, caring for and showcasing artifacts from Chicago’s history, including manuscripts, textiles, art, and photographs. The hands-on Children’s Gallery is designed to appeal to all the senses with sounds from the Great Chicago Fire, an old-fashioned bicycle to ride down a wood-paved street and even a “Smell Map.” The museum also contains numerous interactive stations throughout its collection with an emphasis on architecture, historical photographs and maps. Free tickets to the museum may be available from your local Chicago Public Library.

Jane Addams Hull House Museum

800 S. Halstead St.
Chicago, IL 60607
312-443-5353

Housed in two of the original Hull House buildings, and maintained by UIC, the Jane Addams Hull House Museum commemorates the life of Jane Addams, the founder of modern social work, and winner of the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize. The Hull House building was originally built in the 1850’s; it became Jane Addams’s famous settlement house in the late 1880’s. The museum displays original period furnishings from the Hull House era as well as exhibits about Jane Addams and her pioneering work in social welfare. Visitors will learn about the conditions that immigrants to Chicago faced at the turn of the century as well as the long-lasting impact of the settlement house movement on American society.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio

951 Chicago Ave.
Oak Park, IL
312-994-4000
www.gowright.org

Throughout its history, Chicago has been known for ground-breaking architecture. One of the best known American architects of all time, Frank Lloyd Wright, got his start in Chicago and spent many years living and working right outside the city in suburban Oak Park. Wright’s Oak Park home and studio is now a museum and the departure point for walking tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright historical district. Every Saturday at 1:30, the museum offers the 45-minute Design Detectives Family Tour, with the help of specially trained junior high and high school students. Learn how Wright founded the Prairie School of Architecture and what daily life was like for the Wright family at the turn of the 20th century.

The DuSable Museum of African-American History

740 E. 56th Place
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 947-0600
www.dusablemuseum.org

Chicago has always been a hub of African-American culture. Indeed, the founder of the small trading post that would eventually become this great city was Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, a Haitian of African descent. The DuSable Museum of African-American History is named for the city’s first resident and is one of the few independent institutions dedicated to preserving and interpreting the experiences of African-Americans. Special attention is given to the history of African-Americans in Chicago, including a permanent exhibit on the life and lasting impact of Mayor Harold Washington. Family programs use the arts to tell the story of the African-American experience.


Emily Paster is a mother of two living in the near west suburbs. She teaches writing at Loyola University School of Law. Read more of her thoughts on balancing work and family and raising kids in the Chicago area on her blog West of the Loop.

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