Nickerson Mansion (Driehaus Museum)

When Samuel and Matilda Nickerson decided to build their new home in 1879 they did not mess around. They chose the hottest neighborhood, the best architect, and the safest and most expensive materials they could find. The Nickersons wanted a place that would be around for a while and they were willing to pay for it. And boy, did they ever. By the time they moved in four years later, they’d spent $450,000, or the equivalent of $100,000,000, give or take a few thousand. That’s a lot of moolah by any standards, but that’s what happens when you build an entirely fireproof structure and hire three decorators.

Samuel grew up in Chatham, Massachusetts, and Matilda in nearby Brewster. It’s probably safe to assume they knew each other as kids since they were cousins. Like many young men, especially in the mid-1800s, Samuel wanted to make his mark. His dad gave him boat fare and he headed down the coast when he was seventeen, joining up with his brother, Sparrow, in Florida. After briefly working with his sibling at the general store, a few customers were so impressed with Samuel that they loaned him money to open his own place. That went well, but then a fire burned his store in 1857 and Samuel lost everything. Sadly, that wasn’t the last time that would happen. 

Read more about this landmark in Living Landmarks of Chicago.

Completed: 1883
Architect: Burling & Whitehouse
Address: 40 E. Erie St.

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Sources for Nickerson Mansion (Driehaus Museum)

This is a selection of specific sources used to provide details while researching this landmark. Additional sources, including books and websites, can be found on the Resources page.

  • “A Crown Jewel of Cape Cod.”
  • City of Chicago Landmark Designation Report
  • Driehaus Museum
  • Musical Courier: a Weekly Journal Devoted to Music And the Music Trades. New York: [Musical Courier Co] 2 Sep 1908
  • Nickerson Family Reunion. Fall 2016 Newsletter
  • Visher, John, and Illinois Conference on Social Welfare. Hand-book of Charities. 2d ed. rev. and enl. Chicago: C. H. Kerr & company, 1894.