Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Rich Map : Prairie Avenue
Worlds of Prairie Avenue (Essay)  |  Prairie Avenue Elite in 1886 (Map)  |  Prairie Avenue Gallery  |  Neighborhood Change, 1853-2003 (Essay)  |  Prairie Avenue, 1853-2003 (Map)
Rich Map
Prarie Avenue
Prairie Avenue Gallery
Working on Prairie Avenue
Town Building
The Reach of Prairie Avenue Businesses
Prairie Avenue Politics
Homes Away From Home
Prairie Ave Gallery : Working on Prairie Avenue

Keith Brothers Advertisement, 1871

In 1871, for most of Chicago's male elites, going to work meant going downtown to their stores and offices. In the months following the October fire, however, businessmen moved operations to wherever they could find intact buildings. For many residents of Prairie Avenue, who were untouched by the fire, that meant their homes. Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co. sold hardware from the Hibbard home; John G. Shortall brought all of his real-estate abstracts to this home. As this notice reveals, the Keith Brothers operated their millinery business from their homes on Prairie Avenue.

See also: Fire of 1871

Pupils' Reunion Concert Program, 1881

Frederic W. Root occupied a prominent place in Chicago's nineteenth-century music scene, along with his father George F. Root, one of the city's best-known music publishers. Frederic Root was most famous, however, as a conductor, composer, arranger, impresario, writer, lecturer, organist, and teacher of music, especially vocal music. He was a favorite of Chicago's elite who wanted their children to achieve basic musical skills and appreciation. He would come from his home in Hyde Park or his office in the Loop to give lessons in family homes on Prairie Avenue and elsewhere. His students regularly performed in musicales for neighbors and in more public recitals that brought students together from throughout the city.

See also: Choral Music

Frances Glessner Journal Entries, 1887-1888

These entries in Frances Glessner's journal reveal much about both the residents of and the workers on Prairie Avenue. Clearly, good domestic help was hard to find, a situation that both frustrated Glessner and freed Mary to set limits on what she considered her employer's indignations. Secondly, even as the elites shared information on their servants with each other, those servants were able to observe their employers in all kinds of circumstances. Within the neighborhoods and ethnic communities from which these workers came, their impressions of the elite families tempered or reinforced the impressions that male workers had of elite employers through their job experiences. Finally, the notion of a house as a showpiece for visitors inside and out demonstrates just how important the servants were for sustaining late nineteenth-century elite social practices.

See also: Domestic Work and Workers; Evanston, IL

Coachmen and Carriage in front of T. W. Harvey's Home, n.d.

For nineteenth-century Chicagoans, carriages both provided transportation and served as very public symbols of one's status. Carriages ranged from very simple to very elegant, and showrooms around the city provided Chicagoans with many choices. Horses were also status symbols as the richest families had thoroughbred horses pull their carriages. The number and race of coachmen also reflected the city's social and racial hierarchies. In this picture, the coachmen, both African American, waited in the carriage in front of the Harvey family home. In 1880, Louis Moon and Julius Soppington, the Harvey coachmen, were two of the only eight African Americans living on Prairie Avenue, all of whom were working for homeowners and their families.

See also: Commuting