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CAC Open House

Historic Mansions of Prairie Avenue

“The First Gold Coast.” “The Holiest of Holies of the Social Life of the City.” “The Sunny Street That Held the Sifted Few.” The Prairie Avenue district has garnered many nicknames over the years, all relating back to a time just after the Great Fire of 1871—before the completion of Lake Shore Drive and the subdivision of North Astor Street—when the South Loop address attracted the city’s ultra-wealthy. Properties like the Clarke House, the city’s oldest surviving structure, and Glessner House, a masterwork whose threatened demolition in 1966 precipitated the creation of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, have helped to set the stage for historic preservation battles, and many successes, over the past 50 plus years. Since 1972, the district has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and became a designated Chicago Landmark in 1979. This walk explores the nine historic structures within the landmark district, which includes six mansions and three row houses, with an additional stop to take in the tranquil beauty of the adjacent Women’s Park and Gardens. As this is a residential neighborhood, please be respectful of people’s property and keep to the public right-of-way. Photo by Terence Faircloth

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