Prairie District streetThe Architecture of the Prairie Avenue District represents every major building period in the history of Chicago, from the 1830s Greek Revival Clarke House to modern townhouse and condominium developments.  Many of Chicago’s most Important Architects designed buildings here, including surviving examples by Daniel Burnham, Cobb & Frost, Solon S. Beman, Howard Van Doren Shaw, and Alfred Alschuler.  Henry Hobson Richardson, a Boston architect, designed the Glessner House, considered one of the most significant residential designs of the 19th century.  A variety of Architectural Tours are available throughout the year, showcasing both the neighborhood as a whole, and specific buildings that have been preserved as house museums.  More than two dozen buildings and sites, including mansions, industrial buildings, Motor Row showrooms, and more, can be seen by walking through the area.  Click here for a listing of Landmarks and other Important Buildings.

*Special Thanks to Bill Tyre, Executive Director of Glessner House, for his generous support with historical content.

Important Architects

Henry Hobson RichardsonThis Boston architect achieved a national reputation based on his interpretation of the Romanesque style.  Round arches and lintels in rock-faced masonry, often emphasized with contrasting stone, as well as round or polygonal turrets and projecting bays were trademark features of what became known as the “Richardsonian” Romanesque style.  His only surviving Chicago commission is the landmark Glessner House at 1800 S. Prairie Avenue.

Daniel BurnhamBurnham looms as one of the great figures in Chicago history.  In 1890, he was appointed supervising architect for the World’s Columbian Exposition, and assembled a group of architect to create the legendary White City.  In 1909, Burnham completed his monumental Plan of Chicago, one of several master plans created for major cities across the U.S.  He resided at 2100 S. Prairie Avenue from 1876 to 1881 in a house he and partner John W. Root designed for John B. Sherman, president of the Chicago Union Stock yards.  In 1902, Burnham was hired to significantly enlarge and remodel the Marshall Field Jr. house at 1919 S. Prairie Avenue.

Solon Spencer BemanBeman arrived in Chicago at the age of 26 in 1879 to undertake the massive project of designing the Town of Pullman, which ultimately included more than 1,300 houses, a factory, water tower, theater, church, hotel, market and schools.  He later designed large additions to Pullman’s home at 1729 S. Prairie, as well as his impressive monument at Graceland Cemetery, in addition to the Fine Arts Building and numerous Christian Science churches.  Local commissions include the Kimball mansion at 1801 S. Prairie Avenue and the original design for the house at 1919 S. Prairie Avenue (later remodeled by Daniel H. Burnham).

Alfred AlschulerAlschuler was a versatile architect who designed warehouses, department stores, industrial buildings, synagogues, and offices during a career that spanned more than 40 years.  His building for the London Guarantee & Accident Company anchors the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, and his K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Temple is a landmark of the Hyde Park neighborhood.  Local buildings include theAtwell Building at 221 E. Cullerton Street (now Prairie Avenue Lofts) and the Columbian Colortype Building at 320 E. 21st Street (now Chess Lofts).

Henry Ives CobbCobb was an important Chicago architect in the late 19th century.  His surviving buildings throughout the city include the Newberry Library, several early Gothic-Revival style buildings on the University of Chicagocampus, and numerous structures on the Lake Forest College campus.  Two of the seven surviving mansions on Prairie Avenue were designed by Cobb in partnership with Charles S. Frost – the Coleman house at 1811 S. Prairie and the Rees house at 2110 S. Prairie.

Charles Van Doren ShawOne of Chicago’s most prolific architects in the first decades of the 20th century, Shaw was born and raised at 2124 S. Calumet, where he also set up his first architectural office.  His commissions include numerous homes for some of Chicago’s most famous residents, and Market Square in Lake Forest.  Among his most significant designs are the R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company plant at 350 E. Cermak Road, the Ginn & Company plant at 2203 S. King Drive, and the magnificent arts and crafts sanctuary of the Second Presbyterian Church at 1936 S. Michigan Avenue.

Architectural Tours

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Glessner House Courtyard1800 S. Prairie Avenue
Tours offered Wednesday through Sunday at 1:00 and 3:00pm
Clarke House Simmerling1827 S. Indiana Avenue
Tours offered Wednesday through Sunday at 12:00 and 2:00pm
Second Presbyterian Church interior1936 S. Michigan Avenue
Free tours offered every Wednesday from 2:00 to 4:00pm. Tours also offered the first and third Saturday of each month at 11:00am and 12:00pm
Prairie Avenue Walking TourGlessner House Museum – 1800 S. Prairie Avenue
Walking tours of Prairie Avenue and surrounding streets offered the second and fourth Sunday of July, August, and September from 2:00 to 4:00pm
Glessner House intreriorGlessner House Museum – 1800 S. Prairie Avenue
Annual interior tour of privately-owned historic mansions in the district. Second Sunday of June from 1:00 to 4:00pm

Open Items and To Dos:

  • PDNA to review and revise text
  • Should architects be listed in alpha order?
  • Change formatting of top image?