The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton, is a classic children's book. A sturdy frame cottage is built far out in the country. But as the years pass, the city grows up around it, making the house sad. Finally, the house is put on rollers, moved further out into the country, and is once again happy.
Chicago has its own version of the Little House. Except that the Chicago house was moved twice--and the second time, it was moved back downtown. The city is now celebrating its 175th birthday.
Henry B. Clarke was one of Chicago's early settlers. He operated a hardware business and was a director of the city's first bank. In 1836 he built a house on the outskirts of town, near what is now Michigan Avenue and 16th Street.
Clarke's home was no little cottage, but an imposing mini-mansion with pillared portico and high cupola. When Henry died, his wife Caroline continued to live in the house. That's when it became known as "The Widow Clarke House."
At the time of the Great Fire in 1871, the house was owned by a tailor named John Chrimes. Though the fire didn't come anywhere near the property, Chrimes wasn't taking any chances. He had the house moved four miles south onto the open prairie.
Settlement eventually grew up around the Clarke House.
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