Saturday, May 4, 2013

Chicago's Oldest (and most traveled) Home, The Clarke House

The Clarke House is Chicago's oldest surviving home. It was built in 1837 and was originally located at around 1700 south Michigan Ave. which at the time was an old indian trail. The home was an early example of Greek revival and the Clarke's lived there until 1872 when the home and land was sold to the Chrimes family. By that time the city had expanded and what had been an isolated house on the prairie was now part of a rapidly expanding city. One that had almost burned to the ground the previous year in the great fire that started just a little to the west.

Fearful of another fire and seeking cleaner country air for an ailing child the house was moved almost thiry blocks south to 4526 Wabash where the Chrimes lived until 1942 when they sold it to Bishop Louis Henry Ford and the St. Paul Church of God in Christ. They built a church next door and used the home for a variety of purposes until 1972 when they wanted to use the land for something else and began negotiating with the city to sell them the house.

A deal was reached in 1977 and the city planned to move it (again) this time to a new park where it currently sits about a block away from it's original location. There was a problem though since the move to south Wabash the el had been constructed. How were they going to get the home past that. Various ideas were proposed and rejected before the city reached a final decision

They were going to lift the 120 ton building up twenty seven feet up in the air and over the el tracks. Starting at midnight on 12/4/1977 train service was halted and the operation began in front of a crowd of 2,000 people. The operation was a success until it got to the other side when the hydraulic equipment froze up leaving the building stuck up in the air until the 18th of December when it got warm enough to finish the move to it's present location.

For the full story of this historic home follow this link.

I found this video about the move on Vimeo.

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