Chicago List: History and Sites

I suppose this list could be seen as an off-shoot of my Neighborhoods list – the types of historical sites to check out around the city. Or vice versa, neighborhoods to explore while I’m off on history-based adventures.

Either way, I’m a sucker for a good story from the past, and Chicago has plenty of those. I’ve been thinking about re-reading Devil in the White City since moving back, just to revisit such a well-written account of a crazy dramatic time in the city’s history. May not get to it (my stack of To Read books is long right now, to say the least), but at least I’ve got a solid list of history to witness for myself, right in my own backyard.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio – Growing up in the city Wright also called home, I thought every town had such iconic examples of residential architecture on every block. On trips to The Met, I always made a point to stand in the Wright room, a sense of familiarity washing over me. I haven’t been to his home and studio since I was in grade school; would love to take a day to zip out on the Green Line and wander the space he worked and lived in.

Jane Addams Hull-House – I’m sure I came across Jane Addams story in a social sciences class in college at some point, yet for some reason I never made the time to dig more deeply into her story. And what a story it is. The settlement she built in Chicago to serve the greater good of the community changed social services across the country, and Hull House and Museum now keep her legacy and impact in tact.

Driehaus Museum – To be honest, I’d never heard of this space that’s apparently just a few blocks from the heart of the Magnificent Mile. Touted as a throwback to Chicago’s gilded age, it was the home of banker Samuel Nickerson and, in 2003, was turned into a museum of all things posh and extravagant from another age. 

Nobel-Seymour-Crippen House – Another recent discovery, this estate in the Norwood Park neighborhood (far north side of the city) is considered to be the oldest standing building in the city. Built in 1833, it now holds the name of the three families who’ve lived there over the generations and is open as a museum with tours every Saturday.

Graceland Cemetery – Since finding the closest Target to any new apartment is as important as connecting wifi and forwarding my mail, I quickly learned I could take the 78 bus east down Montrose to that beacon of affordability. This takes me directly past a high brick wall along the south side of the street that lasts for several blocks. It wasn’t until I started building this list that I realized it’s one side of Graceland Cemetery, “an oasis of art, architecture and horticulture since 1860.” A quick glance and their suggested self-guided tours (which can focus on “Chicago’s great architects, the city’s turbulent history, it’s powerful and inventive citizens…”), and I’m convinced it’s worth an afternoon exploring.

Old St. Patrick’s Church – I have a memory of going to mass at Old St. Pat‘s with my dad and brother; I think it might’ve been Easter, but it could’ve been any Spring Sunday. What I remember is there was a line of horse and carriages outside the church, and I walked over to pet one of the gentle beasts…who promptly sneezed all over me and whatever Sunday best I was wearing. This grand house of worship – one of the few buildings to survive the Chicago Fire of 1871 –  deserves claim on different, better memories I can make now that I’m back in town.