The Richard H. Driehaus Museum is located inside the Nickerson Mansion. This remarkable structure is situated in the heart of Chicago’s bustling River North neighborhood, just two blocks west of the Magnificent Mile—Michigan Avenue. The Richard H. Driehaus Museum is dedicated to preserving the wonders of the Nickerson Mansion and presenting objects from its permanent collection of Gilded Age art. It is open for guided tours and rotating special exhibits pertaining to the history and culture of the late nineteenth century.
Driehaus Museum History and Background Information
The Nickerson Mansion is one of Chicago’s great remaining homes of the so-called “Gilded Age”—a name for the time period between the end of the American Civil War and the start of the twentieth century that saw a burst of economic growth yield the rise of a class of fabulously wealthy individuals. The Nickerson Family built this magnificent structure between the years of 1878 and 1883, and lived there until 1900. For the next 20 years, a succession of Chicago’s wealthiest citizens resided here.
In 1920, the American College of Surgeons took over the property and made it their national headquarters—an arrangement which lasted until 1963. For the ensuing 40 years the Nickerson Mansion would be home to multiple leaseholders, businesses, and organizations. In 2003, Richard H. Driehaus purchased the home and financed a 5-year-long restoration of the structure. In 2008, the Richard H. Driehaus Museum opened to the public for the purpose of showcasing the Nickerson Mansion’s fully restored interior, Mr. Driehaus’ personal collection of Gilded Age-period art, and a range of special exhibits.
What’s at the Driehaus Museum
For most visitors, the major appeal of the Richard H. Driehaus Museum consists of two elements: the Nickerson Mansion and the variety of temporary special exhibits the Museum sponsors and hosts. The Nickerson Mansion itself is considered a sparkling example of a restored, late-19th Century American home. Particular highlights of the interior include its grand Main Hall, breathtaking Library, and beautiful Ballroom.
The interior of the Mansion is also home to several outstanding period pieces belonging to the Driehaus Museum’s permanent collection. Standout selections include a Chickering and Sons grand piano, a Tiffany table lamp, a Bavarian gem-set inkstand, and much more. Recent special exhibits have included shows devoted to the Chicago’s World Fair of 1893 and the fashion of Downtown Abbey.
While there are no dining options available at the Driehaus Museum, its prominent location in Chicago’s glamorous River North neighborhood just two blocks west of Michigan Avenue means that there are plenty of restaurants, cafés, and bars nearby. There are additional amenities here, too, though. A wheelchair-accessible entrance can be found right next to the Museum’s main entrance, while despite its age, the entire building is serviced by an elevator.
The Driehaus Museum Store is your go-to option here for a nice assortment of souvenirs and collectibles. Here you’ll find a pleasant mixture of fun knickknacks and period-appropriate pieces. That means everything from vintage clothing to boutique jewelry, as well as books, notebooks, candles, and tea sets.
Tips for Visiting the Driehaus Museum
- The Driehaus Museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays between the hours of 10:00am and 5:00pm.
- For those groups or families traveling with children, admission to the Driehaus Museum is free for anyone under the age of 12 years old. The Driehaus Museum also offers a variety of discounts for college students, teachers, and active military personnel.
- For those visitors traveling to the Driehaus Museum via car, please be advised that there is no on-site parking available. Some on-street parking is available in the immediate area of the Museum, though, and there are many parking garages to be found nearby. The Driehaus Museum does also validate parking for a self-park garage located at 50 East Ohio Street (which is located just two blocks straight south of the Museum); the current rate (subject to change) is $15 for up to 6 hours. There are many public transportation options running frequently nearby, too.
- For the most part, photography is allowed and welcomed within the Driehaus Museum—so have your cameras/phones ready to go! However, flash photography and the taking of videos here are strictly prohibited, and occasionally, in the case of certain special exhibits, certain objects may be subject to copyright protection—making them off-limits from photographing, too.