By Megan Horst-Hatch
What do a fur trader, a banker and Frank Lloyd Wright have in common? All were important to Chicago’s history. From the founder of Chicago to an innovative architect in the early 20th century, notable Chicagoans have left an indelible mark on the city’s history. Gain a greater appreciation for these Chicagoans’ contributions to the city by visiting the following historic sites.
Clarke House Museum
1827 S Indiana Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
The Clarke House Museum has the distinction of being Chicago’s oldest house. Built in 1836 for Henry B. Clarke, a merchant, the home was originally built on what is now 1700 North Michigan Avenue. The home, which has survived fires and being relocated twice, would be sold to several owners, including a church, before finally being owned by the City of Chicago in 1977. Today, visitors to the museum can see what life was like in Chicago in the pre-Civil War era.
40 E Erie St
Chicago, IL 60611
While the Driehaus Museum is two blocks west of Michigan Avenue, step inside and you will feel transported to an earlier time away from the hustle and bustle of shoppers on the Magnificent Mile. In the Driehaus Museum, sunlight filters in through Tiffany glass and works by interior decorators, the Herter Brothers, adorn the rooms. Built for Chicago banker Samuel Mayo Nickerson—and later benefactor to the Art Institute of Chicago—by architectural firm Burling and Whitehouse in the 1880s, philanthropist Richard H. Driehaus established the home as a museum in 2003 and started a five-year preservation and restoration of the home. The museum is wheelchair accessible.
Related: Best Historical Sites In Chicago
Frederick C. Robie House
5757 S Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL 60637
Located on the University of Chicago’s campus in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood, the Frederick C. Robie House isn’t notable so much for its previous inhabitants as it is for its designer, Frank Lloyd Wright. Considered a masterpiece of the Prairie style, the home includes elements evocative of flatlands, including long bands of windows and wide overhanging eaves. Designed in 1908 and built in 1910, the home includes art glass windows designed by Wright. The Robie House was registered as a national historic landmark in 1964, the first building to receive this status in Chicago. While tours are available, only the exterior and ground floor are wheelchair accessible.
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
800 S Halsted St (M/C 051)
Chicago, IL 60607
Founded in 1889 by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr as a social settlement to offer art and literary education to the poor, Hull-House would evolve to offer immigrants practical classes to help them become integrated in American society. Jane Addams and the residents would also help pass critical and influence public opinion on a variety of issues including public health, free speech, fair labor practices and immigrants’ rights. Addams would later be honored for her work with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. Today, the museum explores and celebrates Hull-House’s importance in history while also giving an historic perspective on daily life inside the settlement. The museum is wheelchair accessible.
Naper Settlement Museum
523 S Webster St
Naperville, IL 60540
Ever wanted to see an old printing press or see a one-room schoolhouse? At the Naper Settlement Museum, you can. The museum, established in 1969, contains a mix of original structures relocated to the museum and faithful replicas of structures originally built in the area. Some of the highlights of the museum include the Pre-Emption House, which was the first meeting place for official county business and the site of one of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches in his pre-presidential days. The museum also has the Paw Paw Post Office, which served as Naperville’s first post office in 1833. While many of the buildings are accessible by wheelchair, some have limited accessibility.
Pioneer Court Plaza
401 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
When it comes to historical sites in Chicago, Pioneer Court Plaza offers the cornerstone of the Windy City’s history. Once part of the original home of Haitian-born fur trader Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, the first settler of Chicago, the plaza is now surrounded by skyscrapers. Why would DuSable pick this particular location for a home? As any realtor will tell you, it was all about location, location, location; his settlement in the late 1770s was at the mouth of the Chicago River, near Lake Michigan, ensuring an ideal spot for his fur-trading business to customers in Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana. A plaque commemorating DuSable’s contributions to Chicago is at the plaza and the site is now a national historic landmark.
Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She loves nothing more than a great cupcake, and writes at I’m a Trader Joe’s Fan. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.