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Top 10+ Oldest Buildings in Chicago

As one of the USA’s most populous and industrious cities, Chicago has had a long history of architectural innovation. With a spectacular lakeshore skyline featuring some of the tallest skyscrapers around, the city’s buildings are truly impressive.

But it’s not just height and modernity that make the windy city’s structural selection so special. Chicago and its suburbs boast many historically significant buildings that have survived through the ages to stand to this day, revealing much about the city’s past.

With this in mind, let’s explore the top 10 oldest buildings in Chicago, featuring remarkable structures from across its wider urban area.

1. Noble-Seymour-Crippen House

noble seymour crippen house exterior

Completion: 1833

Type of building: Mansion

First on our list of the top 10 oldest buildings in Chicago is the Noble-Seymour-Crippen House, located in the Norwood Park area of the city. This historic mansion was built in the year 1833, and was originally a farmhouse before being converted to a normal family residence.

In the years following, various additions were made to the property, including the 1868 construction of a northern wing, which was built in an Italianate style. The name of the mansion relates to the various owners that have presided over its grounds: the Noble, Seymour and Crippen families.

Today, the Noble-Seymour-Crippen House is a museum and community centre, showcasing its story to local residents and visitors alike. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

2. Henry B. Clarke House

henry b clarke house exterior
Chris Rycroft, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Completion: 1836

Type of building: Residential Building

Dating back to the year 1836, the Henry B. Clarke House, otherwise known as the Clarke-Ford House, is a Greek Revival style home in Chicago. It is thought to be the oldest surviving home in the city.

The house was built, as its name suggests, by Henry B. Clarke, who bought and sold hardware goods. Although the original structure remains largely intact, the location of the building has moved twice, with it now residing near to its original spot on Indiana Avenue.

Designated as a Chicago Landmark in 1970, the Henry B. Clarke House now operates as a museum, offering visitors a unique glimpse into what life was like before the American Civil War. It has also been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

3. Old St. Patrick’s Church

Completion: 1854

Type of building: Church

The title of Chicago’s oldest religious building goes to Old St. Patrick’s Church, colloquially referred to as Old St. Pat’s. Located at 700 West Adams Street, it has survived through the ages and provides congregational services to this day. 

Old St Patrick’s Church was founded in 1854, and was initially housed in a wooden building, before this structure was replaced by a larger building in the late 1850s. The church features two distinctive octagonal spires, representing the Eastern and Western church, with these being added in 1885.

In modern times, Old St. Patrick’s Church is renowned for having a strong connection to the city’s Irish cultural roots, with many themed events taking place at the church. One of the biggest is its famous annual ‘block party’, drawing thousands of visitors each year. 

4. St. Ignatius College Prep Building

st ignatius college prep building
Andrew Jameson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Completion: 1869

Type of building: College

Next on our list of Chicago’s oldest buildings is the Saint Ignatius College Prep Building, situated in the Near West Side neighbourhood of the city. This college-preparatory school has been active since the year 1869, first serving as a parish for Irish immigrants fleeing the Irish famine.

The school was founded by Arnold Damen, a Dutch missionary, with the main school’s campus opening in 1870.  This structure is one of the city’s most recognisable, featuring a unique Second Empire-style design which continues to draw admirers from across the city and beyond. 

5. University Hall

artistmac, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Completion: 1869

Type of building: Office Building

University Hall, the administrative centre of the University of Illinois in Chicago, is another of Chicago’s oldest buildings. With a height of 338 feet tall, it is also the tallest building on Chicago’s West Side.

The building was designed in the Brutalist style by Walter Netsch of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, and features a unique design with widening tiers instead of setbacks. 

Today, it is a prominent campus landmark, with the top floor housing the university chancellor’s offices while the lower floors are used for various university departments. 

6. First Baptist Congregational Church

Completion: 1871

Type of building: Church

Designed by architect Gurdon P. Randall, the First Baptist Congregational Church has had a long and interesting history. Originally intended to house the Union Park Congregational Church, it briefly housed the Mayor’s Office and City Council following the catastrophic Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

The church, which is located at 60 N. Ashland Boulevard, is architecturally notable for its limestone exterior and unique amphitheatre-style interior. As such, the structure is often included and celebrated in church architecture circles.

And, due to this, it has received landmark status, both as an Illinois Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. It was also designated a Chicago Landmark on January 21, 1982.

7. Berghoff Buildings

Completion: 1872

Type of building: Restaurant

The title of seventh-oldest building in Chicago goes to the Berghoff Buildings. Now used as a restaurant, the complex comprises three distinct buildings, all of which were completed in 1872, just a year after the devastating Great Chicago Fire.

Indeed, the Berghoff Buildings are famous as being a rare example of a structure situated in the Loop area that has roots in the Great Fire period. This is because the disaster devastated much of the central part of the city.

From an architectural standpoint, the Berghoff Buildings are notable examples of the Italianate style. Their design features rows of adjacent arched windows and decorative cornices, evoking the architectural style of the Italian Renaissance.

Although the Berghoff Buildings may seem dwarfed by their towering neighbours in the modern age, they nevertheless offer a revealing glimpse into the downtown Chicago landscape of the 1870s. 

8. Page Brothers Building

page brothers building exterior

Completion: 1872

Type of building: Office Building

Built in 1872, the Page Brothers Building in Chicago has particular historical and architectural significance. It was the first commercial building to be constructed following the devastating Great Fire of 1871, representing a symbol of economic recovery for the city and its citizens. 

The building is noteworthy for its iron facade, and is the oldest surviving structure of its kind in Chicago. Although it now looks relatively small at only five-storeys tall, it is nevertheless considered a historically important example of late 19th Century building work.

With this in mind, the Page Brothers Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 5, 1975. It was further designated as a Chicago Landmark in 1983. 

9. Delaware Building

Completion: 1874

Type of building: Residential Building

Another old structure designated as a Chicago Landmark is the impressive Delaware Building, located at 36 W. Randolph Street. Constructed between 1872 and 1874, the structure was designed by architects Julius Huber and Wheelock & Thomas.

Built in the Italianate style, it features a cast-iron base and precast concrete upper floors. It also features a two-story atrium that was added in a 1889 expansion – this expansion also included two more upper floors and a redesigned lower two floors.

10. Washington Block

Completion: 1874

Type of building: Office Building

Last but not least on our top ten list of Chicago’s oldest buildings is the Washington Block: a five-story commercial building located in Chicago’s Loop District.

This Italianate-style structure was designed by Frederick and Edward Baumann and completed in 1874. When finished, it was the tallest building in the Loop area, a feat helped by its distinctive isolated pier foundation.

Widely considered to be a precursor to modern skyscrapers, it was listed as a Chicago Landmark on January 14, 1997, underscoring its importance in the city’s architectural and historical heritage.

Thanks for reading our handy guide to the current top 10+ oldest buildings in Chicago. While the famous North American city is now more known for its cloud-topping skyscrapers than its historic 19th Century buildings, it’s nice to know that many storied structures survive on to this day.

For more compilations, building news and architectural discussion, explore our latest articles, including our exploration of whether the pyramids had gold tops or not.

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Last Updated on 22 September 2023 by Michael