Prairie Avenue Historic District

Prairie Avenue Historic District, Chicago: Address, Phone Number, Prairie Avenue Historic District Reviews: 4.5/5

Prairie Avenue Historic District

Prairie Avenue Historic District

Top ways to experience Prairie Avenue Historic District and nearby attractions

The area
Neighborhood: South Loop
This downtown neighborhood offers a variety of activities ranging from cultural to sporting. If you happen to visit during football season, you may bump into a boisterous few fans on their way to a Bears game on the southernmost tip of South Loop. On the flip side, Museum Campus offers cultural and educational experiences in its planetarium, museum and aquarium, all situated along the lakefront. Grant Park is one of Chicago’s premier locations for green space and recreation with views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. Take a stroll down memory lane in the historic Prairie District where you can enjoy views of old historic homes. Restaurants, theaters, and clubs are spread throughout the neighborhood along with a collection of burger joints along Michigan Avenue just across from the park.
How to get there
  • Cermak–McCormick Place • 6 min walk
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.

29 reviews
Very good

Taylor B
Chicago, IL7,737 contributions
If you are a historian or are fascinated by the Gilded Age or possess an inquiring mind about Chicago's history, you have to start at the Prairie Avenue Historic District, or what is left of it. Just to imagine what it was like in the 1800s is enough to make the trip worthwhile. It is a historic district in the Near South Side. It includes the 1800 and 1900 blocks of South Prairie Avenue and the 1800 block of South Indiana and 211-217 East Cullerton. Few are aware that it was the site of the Battle of Fort Dearborn. But most are aware that Prairie Avenue became the city's most fashionable residential neighborhood after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and designated a Chicago Landmark in 1979. The street has a rich history from its origins as a major trail for horseback riders and carriages. During the last three decades of the 19th century, a six-block section of the street served as the residence of many of Chicago's elite families and an additional four-block section also was known for grand homes. Mansions for George Pullman, Marshall Field, John J. Glessner, John Sherman and Philip Armour anchored the neighborhood of over 50 mansions known as "Millionaire's Row." They were designed and built by many of the leading architects of the day. However, in 1885, after Potter and Bertha Palmer built the Palmer Mansion that anchored the Gold Coast at 1350 North Lake Shore Drive, the elite residents began to move north. Today, the Glessner House at 1800 South Prairie Avenue is the focal point of the district. It has been restored as a historic house and museum and is open for public tours. But you can still stroll the neighborhood and observe some of the late 19th century buildings that have been preserved, including the Henry B. Clarke House and the Second Presbyterian Church. Marshall Field lived at 1905 South Prairie and purchased 1919 South Prairie for Marshall Field Jr. Others are the three-story William Wallace Kimball house at 1801 South Prairie and the Coleman-Ames mansion at 1811 South Prairie. In 2007, the Marshall Field Jr. mansion, which had been vacant for 40 years, was renovated and converted into six private residences. Interestingly, Prairie Avenue is undergoing a redevelopment that includes One Museum Park at 1215 South Prairie, the tallest all-residential building in Chicago. Even the Potter Palmers, who were among the great visionaries of their era, didn't think of anything so grand.
Written January 24, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Fairport, NY482 contributions
The Prairie Avenue Historic District encompasses homes built between 1870 and 1904 by Chicago's elite. Later, the area became more industrial and commercial with motor companies and printing industry buildings.

The heart of the District is Prairie Avenue itself. Among the Chicago magnates who lived on Prairie Avenue were George Pullman of Pullman Sleeping Cars, Philip Armour of the meat-packing company, Marshall Field and Marshall Field, Jr., William Kimball of Kimball Pianos & Organs, and John B. Sherman, President of the Union Stockyards. Eventually the area was no longer as posh as the Gold Coast and began to decline. Some homes were demolished, but many remain.

The architectural star of Prairie Avenue is undoubtedly the J.J. Glessner House at 1800 South Prairie (1886). It is now the Glessner House Museum (see separate tripadvisor listing). However the exterior facades on Prairie Avenue and 18th Street are powerful examples of the Richardsonian Romanesque-style named after the House's architect, Henry Hobson Richardson.

The fortress-like street facades were hated by Glessner's catty-corner neighbor George Pullman (house demolished). He convinced William W. Kimball of Kimball Organs & Pianos to use Pullman's favorite architect, Solon. S. Beman to build a French-Chateau-style house at 1801 Prairie Avenue (1890-1892). After a major restoration in 1990, the Kimball House's delicately sculptured stonework now houses the United States Soccer Federation.

The Federation also occupies the Joseph G. Coleman House at 1811 South Prairie, a Romanesque Revival in brown sandstone by Cobb & Frost (1886).

Next to the Glessner House on the western side of Prairie Avenue is the Chicago Women's Park and Gardens, designed by Mimi McKay (2000), that honors important women in Chicago History. Further south at 1900 South Prairie is the Elbridge G. Keith House, the last remaining Second Empire-style house on the street, designed by John W. Roberts in 1870.

Prairie Avenue is interrupted by a pocket park with an odd, bell-shaped giant finial in its center. On the East side at 1919 South Prairie is the Marshall Field, Jr. House originally designed in 1884 by Solon S. Beman and greatly expanded in 1902 by D.H. Burnham & Co. After lying vacant for 25 years, it was converted into condominiums in 2005.

At about the same time gaps on the East Side of Prairie Avenue and behind those properties on South Prairie Parkway were filled by row house condominiums in architecturally compatible styles.

Prairie Avenue is a pleasant street to spend a few minutes if you enjoy historical architecture. Nearby at 1936 Michigan Avenue is the Second Presbyterian Church, designed by James Renwick in 1872 (see separate tripadvisor listing). After a fire in 1900, its interior was restored in an Arts & Craft Style with 9 Tiffany & Co. and 2 Edward Burne-Jones for William Morris & Co. windows.

The Prairie Avenue Historic District is accessible from Downtown on CTA Buses #3 or #4 on Michigan Avenue or CTA #129 on Indiana Avenue. If you are hungry, Krolls South Loop (see separate tripadvisor listing) is at Michigan and 18th.
Written November 11, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Janet W
Brussels, Belgium218 contributions
Well, the reviewer " Tombantle" summed it up well in his Nov. 11, 2012 review. I just wanted to add a few practical details to supplement his information.

Clarke House (built in 1836): You can't visit this house on your own. One-hour guided tours are offered Wednesdays through Sundays at noon and 2pm. They begin at the Glessner House at 18th Street and Prairie Avenue. Be on time! I arrived a bit late and missed the 2pm tour because no one answered the door when I knocked. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors & students, and $6 for children. Tours are free on Wednesdays.

Glessner House: open the same days as the Clarke House and just a couple minutes' walk away, same prices, but tours are at 1 and 3pm, also free on Wednesdays. Combined tickets for both houses are discounted. The guide had interesting historical anecdotes about the Glessner home and family (I did make it in time for that tour), but I didn't find the house particularly beautiful...

After seeing the Glessner House, I tried to visit the Second Presbyterian Church several blocks away, which I had heard had 9 lovely Tiffany stained glass windows and murals by Frederic Clay Bartlett but the church was closed. It is only open (by tour) on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1-3pm and Sundays at 12:15

There was supposed to be a Vietnam Veterans Art Museum here, but I was told it had moved elsewhere.

If you have free time while in Chicago, why not take a walk in this quiet, historic residential neighborhood. Some signs around the pretty Chicago Women's Park give interesting information about the buildings themselves and daily life from the 1870s up to the present.

Written November 2, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

New York City, NY18 contributions
The Clarke House and Glessner House tour was very nice. Takes an hour each and you see both on the tour. Guide was great. Walking tour map of the area also on hand. The walking tour wasn't that great but it was a beautiful day for a walk. I've visited Chicago a zillion times over the years but I'd missed this area completely. Chinatown is within walking distance along with the red line train. A healthy walk but safe and all. Nice little counter service restaurant on 18th street by Glessner house - good pizza and outdoor seating. Inside seats too. House tours are free on Wednesday.
Written September 12, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Taylor B
Chicago, IL7,737 contributions
In the late 1800s, Prairie Avenue was Chicago's most prestigious address, home to some of the city's richest and most famous people, including George Pullman, Philip Armour, Marshall Field, John Glessner, William Wallace Kimball, Gustavus Swift and Potter Palmer. Historically, the north-south thoroughfare on Chicago's South Side extended from 18th Street to 22nd Street. Today, only 11 residences have survived from the district's glory days. Visitors can sign up for a walking tour of the district at the Glessner House Museum or can explore on their own. A two-block section of the street forms the core of the Prairie Street Historic District, which is designated as a Chicago Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It covers the 1800 and 1900 blocks of South Prairie, the 1800 block of South Indiana and 213 through 217 East Calumet. The district is anchored by two famous buildings: the Clarke House at 1827 South Indiana and the Glessner House at 1800 South Prairie. The Clarke House is the oldest surviving building in the city, dating to 1836, but it was moved to its current address in 1977. The street's heyday was short-lived. Palmer moved to the North Side and friends followed. The first factory arrived in 1915 and many grand homes were turned into rooming houses after World War I. As the neighborhood became more commercial, most of the houses were torn down. Not much remained by the time Prairie Avenue became a Chicago Landmark in 1979. Today, it's a book of old memories of a glorious era in Chicago's history.
Written November 12, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Diane K
Venice, FL3,720 contributions
We thoroughly enjoyed our walk around the Prairie Avenue District. We printed off a PDF brochure of the neighborhood (found on the Glessner House website - under the Tours tab and on the bottom of the left hand green box). The brochure provided a map, a history of the area and a short summary of each of the remaining 27 houses/buildings that were highlighted. If you see all it is about a 1.5 mile walk - which is very enjoyable. We enjoyed looking at the variety of structures. You can visit the insides of the Glessner House Museum, Clarke House Museum, Second Presbyterian Church, Chicago Women's Park and Gardens and Chess Records. Check the brochure/website for days and times. It is a very enjoyable neighborhood to visit and there is much to learn about the city of Chicago. We were in the area for about 4 hours (went on tours of Glessner, Clarke and 2nd Pres) - and didn't see everything.
Written July 9, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Caledonia T
South Yarmouth, MA6 contributions
We went for a walk and found ourselves on Prairie Avenue, it was pure luck. We spent about an hour trying to wear our cameras out. Absolutely one of the coolest and most beautiful places in Chicago!
Written October 26, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Chicago, IL83 contributions
It is wonderful place just to stroll, worth popping into the two most historical houses. The Women's Park is also so noce and all the people are friendly. It is also easy to get to Lake Michigan, the Field Museum or the Adler Planetarium wlking from here, not to mention Soldier Field.
Written October 2, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Eric W
Jacksonville, FL105 contributions
I wrote separate reviews for both the Glessner House (1880s) and the Clarke House (1830s). These adjoin the Chicago Women's Park and Gardens. Prairie Avenue as a neighborhood preserves some of the original properties that were missed by the Chicago Fire, survived the industrialization of this area near the railroad tracks, Depression and then salvaged while many mansions were razed. The Clarke House was relocated from another location and restored. The Glessner Hourse remained in one family until obtained by a professional architect's association and then turned over for restoration. I recommend you allot at least four hours to do a walking tour of the neighborhood, check out the lake and skyline view from a hidden park east of Prairie Avenue, and make the most of the tours and docents at the two houses. One final treasure is the Women's Park and Garden itself, including a compelling statue honoring Jane Addams. My wife is a social worker, so this was meaningful. And our church dedicates a special week of service we call: "God's Work. Our Hands." See the attached photo. Jane Addams is honored in this tribute to loving loving and dutiful hands.
Written October 11, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Chicago, IL47 contributions
Great glimpse into the bygone, turn of the century Chicago, buried amid all the new, shiny apartment towers. A little off the beaten path but just a short cab ride from downtown. Even a nice walk on a beautiful summer day. See the early traces of architectural styles that would make Chicago famous. The Glessner House Museum is quite of the first "turntable" garage mechanisms. Even just a stroll down the street is worth the visit.
Written September 11, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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