Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chicago History Starts in the South Loop

True Pioneers
In 1835, Henry and Caroline Clarke arrived in Chicago. Henry B. Clarke was a hardware merchant from Utica, New York, and came to Chicago to make his fortune. When the Clarkes moved to Chicago, the city had a population of barely 2000 people.

(Not so) Little House on the Prairie
Henry Clarke bought about 20 acres of land just south of the city. The Clarkes owned the land that is now located between 16th and 17th Street and State Street to the west and the Illinois Central train tracks to the east. The land was mostly prairie; fresh water came from nearby Lake Michigan. The land the Clarkes purchased wasn't incorporated as part of Chicago until 1837.

A True Survivor
In 1836, the Clarkes starting building their home. Not only is the Clarke House the oldest house in Chicago (surviving the Great Fire of 1871), it is the earliest example of Greek Revival architecture here as well. The Clarke House was originally located near 16th and S. Michigan Ave. In 1977 it was moved to its present location, 1827 S. Indiana Ave.

Tours of the nearby Clarke House Museum, Chicago's oldest residence, are offered at noon and 2:00 p.m. Wednesday tours are free. For more information, visit

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