Wednesday, February 16, 2011

St. Paul's Congregation Continues to Make News

Throughout the 1950s, Bishop Ford and the congregation of St. Paul Church of God in Christ continued to make improvements to and advocate the preservation of Clarke House at its 4526 S. Wabash Avenue location. As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, please enjoy the following excerpts from articles in the Clarke House Museum archives:

Chicago Tribune December 30, 1951

The Congregation of St. Paul Church of God in Christ, 4532 Wabash av., will hold a benefit musical program and New Year's eve service at 8p.m. tomorrow in Du Sable High School auditorium. The Rev. Louis H. Ford, pastor, said proceeds from the program will be used to pay for the repairs being made on the Widow Clarke house, 4526 Wabash av., the oldest residence in Chicago, which the church owns. The congregation has contributed more than $4,000 to rehabilitate the house.

The Rev. Ford, who now uses the residence as a parsonage, has directed the drive to gather funds for basic repairs of the plumbing system and roof and for painting the exterior of the historic home. He estimated that another $5,000 would be needed to complete repair work on the interior. He said he hopes to make the house a museum of early Chicago home furnishings and design.

Chicago Tribune August 27, 1956

The 120th anniversary of a Chicago landmark was celebrated yesterday at 4526 Wabash av., where the city's oldest known home stands. It is the "Widow Clarke" house, built about 1836 at 18th st. and Wabash av. in the Greek revival style.

The 14 room white frame building is a reminder that old dwellings need not be dilapidated, said the Rev. Louis Henry Ford, present occupant. The birthday celebration was planned to demonstrate the importance of property conservation, he said.

The Rev. Mr. Ford is pastor of St. Paul Church of God in Christ, next door at 4532 Wabash av. The church purchased the historic house for $7000 in 1940 as a parsonage. Since then, more than $15,000 has been expended in rehabilitating the old building, said the pastor.

Siding Is Replaced
Deteriorated roofing and siding were replaced, foundations repaired, and modern plumbing installed. The building, supported by its original rough hewn oak beams, looks better than many houses constructed in the last decade, said Rev. Mr. Ford.

A birthday tea attended by city officials and hundreds of neighbors was held on the parsonage lawn to mark the event. Parked in Wabash av. was such city cleanup equipment as garbage trucks, street sweepers, and a rat control demonstration truck. The display of vehicles was intended to encourage citizens in neighborhood conservation.

Notable Mansion
The house was constructed by Henry Brown Clarke, an early Chicago hardware dealer and banker. The building was one of the city's notable mansions. Four [two] pillared porticos were at the front and rear of the building. The removal of these porticos is the only major change in appearance of the house. Their replacement, a future goal of the church, would cost an estimated $24,000.

After the Chicago fire of 1871, Clarke's widow sold the house, which was moved to the present location. Replacement value of the landmark is estimated at $50,000. Four spacious rooms on the first floor and four on the second floor have their own fireplaces, with original mantles. Most of the house's original cherry doors are in place. Ceilings are 12 feet high.

The house was one of three in Chicago to be blueprinted by the federal historic Americans buildings survey. The blueprints were recorded in the Library of Congress in 1932.

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