August 15, 2012
As the oldest still-standing house in Chicago, the 1836 Greek Revival residence originally built for upstate New York transplants Henry and Caroline Clarke deserves a look-see. After many perambulations, it now rests about two blocks south of its original location, nestled in the bucolic surroundings of the Chicago Women's Park and Gardens in the Prairie Avenue Historic District. On a recent Saturday tour, docent Robert Irving pointed out the ways in which the home and its fixtures (the latter donated through the Colonial Dames of America, as no original pieces have survived) benefited from the Industrial Revolution. The construction itself uses timber framing, rather than the "balloon frame" method which dominated during the first boom years in young Chicago, but Irving wryly observed that the home's decor -- industrial carpets, pressed-glass stemware, et al -- could serve as the model for the fashionable 19th-century "House Beautiful" derided by Mark Twain in "Life on the Mississippi." However, any home that can withstand being moved over "L" tracks in the dead of winter, as the Clarke House was in 1977, need not apologize for itself.
1827 S. Indiana Ave.; tours Wed.-Sun. for $10 ($15 in combination with Glessner House tour, Wednesdays free); 312-326-1480 or clarkehousemuseum.org