Effective September 1, 2022, Clarke-Ford House tours are temporarily paused due to construction and a reimagining of our public programming. Contact us with any questions.
Henry B. and Caroline Clarke/Bishop Louis Henry and Margaret Ford House
Built in 1836, the Clarke-Ford House is Chicago’s oldest house. It was recently renamed by Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) to affirm the profound role of Bishop Louis Henry and Margaret Ford in preserving the house as a significant part of Chicago’s history — and to recognize the contributions of Caroline Palmer Clarke.
“This renaming provides an important opportunity to provide a more complete history of Chicago’s oldest house," said Mayor Lightfoot. "This will allow us to not only acknowledge the house's original owners, but also the significant contributions of Bishop Louis Henry and Margaret Ford in preserving its legacy for future generations to cherish.”
“We are grateful to the many individuals — including the Ford family, neighborhood residents, dedicated volunteers — and community organizations who have cared for the Clarke House and advocated for its importance over so many years,” said Alderman Dowell.
Clarke-Ford House History
Built in 1836 for Henry B. Clarke, the house shows what life was like for a family in Chicago during the city’s formative years before the Civil War. Its fascinating history began at a time when Chicago received its city charter and much of the area was still undeveloped prairie. Following the death of her husband, Caroline Palmer Clarke, known as the “Widow Clarke,” developed the surrounding family land during the 1850s, which fostered the neighborhood’s growth and provided financial resources to complete unfinished portions of the house.
From 1941 until 1970, Bishop Louis Henry and Margaret Ford and the St. Paul Church of God in Christ congregation put much energy and repair into preserving the house and advocating for its cultural significance to Chicago. Their efforts paid off in 1970 when the house became one of the earliest buildings to gain local landmark status in Chicago.
Over the years, the house has survived two moves, a fire, and decades of Chicago’s unrelenting growth to become an educational monument to the city’s earliest years. The house is now located at 1827 S. Indiana Avenue in the Chicago Women’s Park in the Prairie Avenue Historic District. The National Society of Colonial Dames in The State of Illinois (NSCDA‑IL) has been involved in the Clarke House since 1977, funding programs as well as the collection of period furnishings in the house.
The NSCDA‑IL has been involved in the Clarke House for since 1977. The organization has been a generous supporter over the years, funding programs, as well as the collection of period furnishing in the house. Headquartered in Washington D.C., The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America is dedicated to furthering an appreciation of our national heritage through historic preservation, patriotic service, and educational projects. The NSCDA is involved in nearly 100 historic homes across the country.