Some of the best museums Chicago has to offer are actually the once private homes of Chicagoans, where history, art, and heritage are preserved. All of these museums in Chicago were owned by high-profile residents and now they tell the story of their lives here in Chicago, or hold collections of art that are related to the interests of the former residents. If you want to see a bit of under appreciated Chicago, head to any of these house museums to get to know about the history and culture of the city.
The Richard H. Driehaus Museum is one of the best historically preserved houses in the Chicagoland area. In actuality, this house museum is a city mansion and was the site of several big social events. Inside you will find well-preserved fine arts, furnishings, and decorative arts of the Gilded Age, of which the owner was a big collector. Some of the best preserved pieces are by famous artists Louis Comfort Tiffany and the Herter Brothers. One of the most recent museum exhibits showed off just how much Tiffany was owned, and it ended up amounting to the biggest private collection of Tiffany items.
The city of chicago has the world’s largest collection of preserved works of art and buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright’s signature Prairie Style architecture is mainly concentrated in the Chicagoland neighborhood of Oak Park. The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust charges a nominal fee to enter many of the 25 houses in the area, and once a year a huge event combines tours through many of them in a single night. Take one of the guided tours to learn more about the architect and the inspiration behind his work.
If you are interested in the social reformation in the United States, the Jane Addams Hull House Museum makes the perfect visit. Jane Addams was a leader in social change and policy for the less fortunate and underprivileged, starting Hull House, which is now a national historic landmark and the Residence Dining Hall. The first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Jane Addams Hull has a legacy that lives on through the preservation of her home right in the heart of Chicago. Special programming and art presentations are hosted at the museum throughout the year, and tours that include the history of the home and its place in the history of the city are given.
A modern, art deco house built in the late 1930’s, the Adlai Stevenson home is a great example of symmetry, and geometric pattern that is synonymous with the style. The now historic landmark sits on a 70 acre estate that is now the Captain Daniel Wright Woods Forest Preserve, and while it is not within the city of Chicago, it makes a great day trip. Stevensons’ career included holding the office of Governor in Illinois, Democratic presidential nomination, and Ambassador to the United Nations and the house helped host important dignitaries and political figures. Because of everything that took place here, it has the distinction of being one of the few places recognized as being influential in changing the course of the nation. Today there are exhibits of the Stevensons life, artwork, furnishings, and fine decorative arts throughout the home that is open to the public, the grounds are also preserved as they were when the family lived there.