The Glessner House

October 26, 2011 at 10:35 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )


Last night, my Museum Studies class took a field trip to a museum I’d never been to.  Located on the South Side of Chicago in a neighborhood that used to be overrun with the manufacturing titans of the day (this was back in the late 1800’s), this place is certainly a hidden gem.  The Glessner House was built in 1886 by the Glessner family (and I’d actually call it a mansion), who were a new money family that wanted to build something splendid.

Oh yeah, just a hallway. Not fancy or anything.

The house doesn’t look like much from the outside although the architecture, when studied, is actually pretty cool.  The Glessner’s had two children and their son took up photography as a hobby, taking photos of most of the rooms in the house.  After his parents passed, he and his sister moved to separate coasts and the contents of their home were crated up and stored in a New England barn for many years.  The house itself managed to avoid being demolished (like so many were at the time) because it was simply too expensive to tear down.  It functioned as a printing press for a while and then a group of Chicago architects decided it was worth saving.  As they began the restoration and restoring process, the Glessner son came forward and donated all of the items that had been sitting in crates for years.  He also provided his photographs, so now the house is put back together as closely as possible to what it was over 100 years ago.

The courtyard - just imagine the parties

It.  Was.  Awesome.  There are still some rooms that haven’t been restored but pretty much everything in the building is authentic.  And even in the unrestored rooms there was cool stuff to see, such as the bits of a newspaper from 1916 that were used to paper mache part of one wall.  There were rows of bookshelves and a library that contained first editions of works by Charles Dickens, if that tells you anything.  Obviously you couldn’t touch any of those but just being in the presence of such books had me falling in love.  There were pictures, bedding, clothing, journals, vases, trinkets…all sorts of things.  The house was much larger than I thought it would be and the docents who gave us the tour really knew what they were talking about.  The Glessner’s used to entertain and have society parties and their back yard is actually a gorgeous courtyard that provides an amazing view of the back of the house.  We stood out back in the surprisingly warm night and were able to see the lit stained glass window from the back door.  It was simply awesome to imagine the parties that used to be held there and to think of what those walls have seen.

There’s also a carriage house that is used for various rentals these days, though they hope to restore it eventually as well.  The place is often rented out for weddings and other functions and it definitely makes for an interesting ambiance.  There are also some ghost stories that have floated around (pun intended) but unfortunately I didn’t see any apparitions while I was there.

The Glessner House is just another example of a little-known local museum that should be visited a little more often.  Admission is only $8 and even includes access to the nearby Clark House, which is another historic home.  I haven’t been there yet but after my visit to the Glessner House, I will be going sometime in the future!

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2 Comments

  1. Stephen Reginalds said,

    I was one of the docents who gave the tour. Bonnie and I are so glad you enjoyed the visit. We love giving tours and giving folks a glimpse of what life was like on Prairie Ave. during its heyday.

    • webpaige said,

      Thanks for the tour – we all really enjoyed ourselves and I’ve been talking about the House all week!

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