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Prairie Avenue Historic District

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301 E. Cermak Rd.
Chicago  Illinois  60616
United States
(312) 567-8500
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Midwest Living Review

Kit Bernardi
Full of 19th-century mansions, this district preserves the history of Chicago’s rise from frontier town to iconic American city.

The South Loop neighborhood’s Prairie Avenue Historic District commemorates several major turning points in Chicago’s urban history. Situated south of McCormick Place, the now mostly residential territory is comprised of restored mansions, warehouse lofts and new condos. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, locally elite families built mansions here, just outside the Loop and a block away from Lake Michigan. Today, visitors can view these surviving structures and tour two historical homes—the 1836 Greek Revival-style Clarke House Museum and the Richardsonian Romanesque-style Glessner House Museum (completed in 1887). 

Other architecturally significant buildings line nearby South Michigan Avenue. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Second Presbyterian Church of Chicago (rebuilt by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw) houses Louis Comfort Tiffany stained-glass windows and several murals that echo Arts and Crafts designs. In the 1920s, this strip was called Motor Row because of the luxury automobile showrooms that occupied the ornate, terra-cotta-clad buildings. It transformed into Record Row in the 1960s when recording companies moved in. Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and the Rolling Stones all recorded hits in the Chess Records upstairs studio (tours offered). Throughout South Loop west of Roosevelt Road, sidewalk plaques that look like oversized guidebook pages indicate more historical Chicago sites.

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