Discover the Oldest House in Chicago: Built in 1836!


Chicago, a city known for its iconic skyline and rich architectural history, boasts a treasure trove of historic homes that have withstood the test of time. Among these architectural gems, one stands out as a testament to Chicago’s enduring past – the oldest house in the city. This article delves into the fascinating history of this timeless residence, tracing its roots back to a bygone era.

The Clarke House

The honor of being Chicago’s oldest house belongs to the Clarke House, a charming Greek Revival-style home nestled in the historic Prairie Avenue district. Built-in 1836, just seven years after Chicago was incorporated as a town, the Clarke House predates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, making it a rare survivor of that catastrophic event.

Architectural Marvel

Designed by renowned architect John W. Roberts, the Clarke House is a prime example of Greek Revival architecture, characterized by its elegant columns, symmetrical facades, and pedimented gables. The house originally stood in what was then a fashionable neighborhood but has since witnessed the transformation of the surrounding landscape.

Ownership and Restoration

Over the years, the Clarke House changed hands several times, witnessing the evolution of Chicago from a modest frontier town to a bustling metropolis. In 1977, the city took a bold step to preserve this historical gem by relocating it to its current site in the Prairie Avenue Historic District. The house underwent extensive restoration to bring it back to its original glory, with period-appropriate furnishings and décor.

Life Through the Ages

The Clarke House has borne witness to over a century and a half of Chicago’s history, providing a unique glimpse into the lives of its various inhabitants. From the pioneering Clarke family, who first called it home, to subsequent residents who weathered economic booms and busts, the house is a living museum that narrates the stories of generations past.

Historical Significance

Beyond its architectural significance, the Clarke House holds a special place in Chicago’s history. It serves as a tangible link to the city’s early years, offering visitors a chance to step back in time and imagine life in 19th-century Chicago. The house has become a symbol of resilience, surviving not only the passage of time but also the challenges posed by urban development.

Preserving the Legacy

Today, the Clarke House stands as a proud testament to Chicago’s commitment to preserving its architectural heritage. Open to the public, the house welcomes visitors eager to explore its historic rooms, each filled with artifacts that tell the story of Chicago’s past.


The oldest house in Chicago, the Clarke House, stands as a living testament to the city’s rich history. As a meticulously preserved example of Greek Revival architecture, it invites us to reflect on the pioneers who shaped the city and the resilience of structures that have weathered the passage of time. The Clarke House, with its timeless beauty, continues to inspire awe and admiration, inviting us to connect with the vibrant tapestry of Chicago’s past.

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