The weekend of October 13th and 14th is an exciting time for one of my favorite local organizations, the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF). It’s their second annual free city-wide event known as Open House Chicago. You can learn more about about CAF on my website.
Open House Chicago is an incredible chance to see some of Chicago’s best kept architectural secrets and it’s different neighborhood gems. Below are just a few of the ‘must sees’ on my list. To explore all 150 sites that are open that weekend FOR FREE go to www.openhousechicago.com. (No reservations necessary!)
If visiting Chicago’s loop is your first choice, visit the Pritzker Military library located in the newly restored Monroe building, located across from Millennium Park. This fantastic library is dedicated to all American soldiers and their military history. If you are more interested in seeing where the stars hangout out with CEOs, stop in and check out the House of Blues, Foundation Room, which is located in the Marina City complex. This exquisite space is located on the 4th floor of the House of Blues and is furnished with unique and historical items from around the world.
Better yet, get out of the loop and explore Chicago’s rich and diverse neighborhoods. Steeped in Chicago’s Black history is the “Bronzeville” neighborhood. Many of the mansions located in this area have had minimal renovations and serve as a great example of Chicago’s early architectural styles. Located in the heart of Bronzeville is Mies van der Rohe’s modernistic universal open classroom space which is located on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Try venturing to Chinatown, where you can slide down the original sliding poles in Engine #8’s Firehouse. Engine Company #8 was one of the first responders to the great Chicago Fire of October 1871. See how our city has grown from a post on the prairie to a world class city in the last 181 years.
Some other great neighborhoods to explore south of the loop are: Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, and South Shore. These three areas are rich in cultural and religious diversity, and it is home to our current president. Take a stroll through the parks and sites that were once a part of the Chicago’s World Fair of 1893. This fair was so significant to Chicago’s history it is represented as one of the stars on Chicago’s flag.
Two of Chicago’s earliest neighborhoods are known today as Pilsen and Little Village. Here you can visit America’s largest county jail at the Cook County’s Historic Jail and Courthouse. If food is your passion, this would be a great chance to explore Home Run Inn’s plant and restaurant. See how all of the frozen pizzas for the Taste of Chicago are produced.
While winding your way back to the loop stop in at the Prairie District. Two of Chicago’s residential masterpieces can be found in in this once most fashionable of neighborhoods. Clarke House is the oldest surviving structure and the Glessner House showcases the incredible talents of H.H. Richardson. Take a stroll down the street once known as “Millionaire’s Row”, home to Marshall Field, George Pullman, and Phillip Armour, to name a few.
Traveling north and west of the loop, explore Rodgers Park/West Ridge and see first- hand two separate communities experiencing an influx of new residents, great diversity and very unique buildings. A “must see” is the immaculate and shiny white glazed terracotta condo complex known Casa Bonita, with an enchanting indoor swimming pool and space.
One of Chicago’s true architectural gems is the Garfield Park Conservatory, located west of Chicago in the Garfield Park area. This is a neighborhood comprised of huge parks, and grand boulevards. It is also a community emerging as one dedicated to the arts and the artist who live and create within it’s boundaries.
Another neighborhood located nearby is known simply as, Uptown. Uptown is returning to it’s original roots as an area dedicated to music and dancing. See one of the original ballroom dancing venues at the Aragon Ballroom, today it showcases Latino dancing and music. The Aragon underwent a $5 million dollar restoration in 2005 and was the venue for President Obama’s 50th birthday celebration.
This article touches on just a few of the “gems” open for you to explore. To view all 150 sites, or for schedule information and maps visit www.openhousechicago.org.
Image courtesy of openhousechicago.org.