History of the Noble-Seymour-Crippen house
5622-24 N. Newark Ave.
Mark Noble was a noted early Chicago pioneer. He was a founder of Chicago's first Methodist Church, helped avert a famine after the Blackhawk Wars by butchering cattle and once lived in John Kinzie's cabin. In 1833, Mark and Margaret Noble claimed more than 150 acres in the area and built the first frame house in the township on the top of Union Ridge, a glacial moraine and once the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The home is the oldest existing home in Chicago.
Thomas Seymour, a prominent member of Chicago's Board of Trade, bought the house and land in 1868. He and his wife Louisa built the Italianate addition in 1868 to accommodate their large family and servants. Mr. Seymour raised cattle and cultivated an orchard of apple and cherry trees and a vineyard. Seymour joined the Norwood Land and Building Association in its efforts to build a moral, healthy and beautifully landscaped suburban village. This led to the purchase of six farms and the founding of both the Township and Village of Norwood Park in 1874. Mr. Seymour served as president of the Village for 14 years. When he died in 1916, the property was sold. The house and the land south to the far side of the Kennedy Expressway were sold as one of the subdivided units.
Charlotte Allen Crippen purchased the property for her family and her business, the L.B. Allen Co. Dramatist Charlotte Allen had met her husband, concert pianist Stuart Crippen Sr., on the Chatauqua circuit. The civic-minded Crippen family sponsored community theater and musical productions, founded the local Little League program, and the Norwood Park Baptist Church and raised $750,000 for a World War II hospital plane named "The Spirit of Norwood Park."
Initially, the Crippens' home was only a summer residence without plumbing or electricity. With these additions, they made it their permanent residence. During the Depression, the house was divided into two residences and occupied by their two sons, Paul and Stuart, Jr. and their families. When the Kennedy Expressway was built the L.B. Allen Co. was forced to move and the land was sold.
Agnes Crippen, widow of Stuart Jr., and her children, Nancy Crippen Michener and Stuart C. Crippen, sold the house and the remaining 1.7 acres of land to the Norwood Park Historical Society on December 31, 1987. The Noble Seymour Crippen House was designated a City of Chicago Historical Landmark on May 11, 1988 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 11, 2000.
The Norwood Park Historical Society
has transformed the house into a multipurpose community center. It contains
an historical museum, which focuses on Chicago’s
far northwest side and has a growing collection of historical artifacts and
research materials. The house was featured in the movie “The Babe,” starring
John Goodman. Thanks to State Senator Walter Dudycz and State Representative
Ralph Capparelli, the Society received grants from the State of Illinois,
which enabled the Society to launch a whole house restoration and make landscaping
improvements, in cooperation with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
The goal was to restore the house to its early 20th century appearance.
Both the exterior and interior of the house underwent changes to turn back the clock. Several modernizations, such as central air-conditioning and a handicapped accessible restroom, were added to make the building more useable. The current project involves landscape improvements. These include eliminating diseased, distressed or invasive trees and shrubs, planting new trees, relocating the recycling area, installing a new fence along the south and west property lines, brick walkways, parking lot edging and the construction of a “pull-out” at the top of the hill which will allow for two-way traffic in the driveway. Electrical power was extended to various exterior locations and a sprinkler system is under construction.
As anyone who has restored an old house knows there are many unknowns at the beginning of the project, many surprises along the way, and cost overruns everywhere. The restoration of the Noble-Seymour-Crippen House was no exception. Although the generous grants allowed the Society to accelerate the restoration schedule by many years, the costs exceeded them. The Norwood Park Historical Society continues to need your assistance and support to complete the restoration and to continue providing programs, research opportunities and preserving our neighborhood’s history for generations to come.