DRIEHAUS MUSEUM – inside Chicago’s most expensive mansion

Inside the former Nickerson Mansion.

I know, I know, there’s an unfinished, unfurnished penthouse in Trump Tower for sale for $30 million or something ridiculous. But the Nickerson Mansion cost millions to build in 1879-83. It was for years the second most expensive house in Chicago but the most expensive one has been demolished. So this house, now the Driehaus Museum, is the reigning champion.

The doors are now open to the public, so naturally Mevrouw T dragged me inside. I’m glad she did.

Samuel M. Nickerson made rather a lot of money selling alcohol for ‘medicinal purposes’ during the American Civil War. He invested his earnings wisely and had plenty of cash left over. So he started building a nice house.

For much of the 20th century the American College of Surgeons occupied it, doing little damage. Then in 2003 Chicago philanthropist Richard H Driehaus bought it, paid for its restoration and moved in his superb collection of objets d’art, including probably the world’s finest examples of Tiffany lamps.

Since 2008 it’s been open to the public, and we took the guided tour…and the photos.

It’s not particularly beautiful from the outside. It used to have a garden and conservatory behind it, but the College of Surgeons built a meeting hall there.

From the entrance hall, you know this is pretty special.

The culpola above the library was not part of the original NIckerson house. It was added by a subsequent owner, Mr Fisher.

A nice little Florentine clock.

A Tiffany lamp. People learn how to make them in community college classes, but Mr Tiffany was better at it.

I think this punchbowl is by Tiffany too. Nice work, whoever it was.

Mrs Nickerson liked a bit of leadlight in her private sewing room.

The piece de resistance, Mr Driehaus’s Tiffany lamp with real nautilus shells.

There’s even some history in the rest room. This cistern is a ‘Thomas Crapper valveless waste preventer’. I believe it lent its name such expressions as ‘what a load of cr-p!’

Congratulations, Mr Driehaus, and our thanks for making this treasure available to the public.

Mr Driehaus has an office in the building across the road from the museum. It is not open to the public, but the garden is charming, even through viewed through the fence.

Entry to the Driehaus Museum costs $20, or $25 with guided tour. For opening hours and further information, click here.

The writer was the guest of The Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture.


Filed under Art, USA

3 responses to “DRIEHAUS MUSEUM – inside Chicago’s most expensive mansion

  1. Pingback: Stained Glass Window - Stained Glass Patterns - Stained Glass Designs

  2. Dawn Suggs

    My dear daughter-in-law took me to visit the Driehaus Museum when I was in Chicago in July and it was spectacular. The guides obviously love their work and were well versed about all the details without being pedantic. What an experience!

    • Thanks, Dawn. Yes, you’re right about the guides – architecture tours are a huge bonus for visitors to Chicago, and the guides we had were all great. They’re volunteers, so enthusiasm is their bread and butter!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s