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Open House Chicago's Architectural Gems: From Distilleries to Churches

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Open House Chicago is hosted by the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC)—formerly the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Located at 111 E. Wacker Dr., the CAC is a gateway for visitors, as well as locals, to explore the city through docent-led tours, exciting programs and imaginative exhibits. 

Eight years in, Open House Chicago (OHC) has become a highlight of the fall cultural calendar. In the true spirit of Chicago, OHC has inspired so many institutions to open their doors and welcome in the public to experience behind-the-scenes access to 250+ buildings across Chicago. There are arts centers, churchs, distilleries, corporate offices, schools, artist studios, and so much more. 

OHC is just one of the many CAC programs that inspire people to discover more about our extraordinary city. Families are invited to start at the CAC's new center on the Chicago River at 111 E. Wacker, where there will be a free Family Festival from 10am–4pm both days. Drop in to design your own skyscraper or pick up a free I Spy activity guide and map of nearby family friendly sites. OHC has 50+ such sites for families who want to explore architecture inside and out. To view the complete list of family-friendly sites online go to openhousechicago.org/family

There are hundreds of sites, so we just picked a few that looked particularly interesting to us! All descriptions and images are courtesy of Open House Chicago and their respective sites. 

Make your own adventure, and go enjoy this amazing fall weekend in Chicago! If you can't make it this year, then you'll enjoy the eye candy featured below. Click here to read about CAC's recent rebranding and new architecture center.

– GV

 

Note that some sites may be for CAC members only and require advance registration. Complete details are available on www.openhousechicago.org 

 

The Blackstone Hotel

The Blackstone is considered a prime example of a turn-of-the-century luxury hotel and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Neo-Classical, Beaux-Arts style structure was designed by prominent local architects Marshall and Fox. It is named after Timothy Blackstone, president of the Chicago and Alton Railroad, whose mansion once stood on the hotel’s site. For decades, The Blackstone enjoyed a reputation as the "Hotel of Presidents." It housed the politically powerful and famous and served as a gathering place for generations of Chicago’s leaders, industrialists and the general public. After years of neglect, the hotel reopened in 2008 following a $112-million showcase restoration.

636 S. Michigan • Open Sunday 9-5 (image at top of post is of the hotel's lobby)

 

Chicago Post Office

Be one of the first to set foot inside the rapidly transforming Chicago Post Office, the largest adaptive reuse project in the nation. 601W Companies and the Chicago office of Gensler are spearheading the $600 million project, slated to complete in late 2019. In the end, the hulking 1920s-era structure will become 2.8 million square feet of office space anchored in part by Walgreens’ 200,000-square-foot lease for digital and e-commerce operations. This massive and complex undertaking began with restoration of the historic lobby, and will continue with the addition of a new food hall, a three-acre rooftop terrace for building tenants, and a public riverwalk. Open to CAC members only.

433 W. Van Buren St. • Open Sat, Oct 13 and Sun, Oct 14: 9am - 3pm

 

St. Chrysostom's Episcopal Church

This Episcopal parish is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. The restrained Gothic exterior belies a nave in a distinctly older style. The interior features a wooden beam-braced ceiling, an elegant cloister, beautiful windows by famed Boston stained glass artist Charles J. Connick, an impressive Fisk organ and a unique 43-bell Gillette & Johnston carillon that was installed in 1928. The church serves as an anchor in the Gold Coast community, with a highly regarded Day School serving children from 22 months to five years of age.

1424 N. Dearborn Pkwy. • Open Sat, Oct 13: 9am - 5pm; Sun, Oct 14: 1pm - 5pm

 

FEW Spirits Distillery

FEW is hidden in an inconspicuous alley. It's a fitting location for the first distillery in Evanston—which was the birthplace of the Temperance Movement. FEW is cheekily named after the leader of that movement, Frances E. Willard. The distillery was founded in 2011 and has quickly won acclaim for its whiskeys and gins. The colorful labels on their bottles depict scenes from the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.

918 Chicago Ave., Evanston (Enter through alley) • Open Sat, Oct 13: 11am - 5pm; Sun, Oct 14: 11am - 4pm

 

South Side Community Art Center

The South Side Community Art Center (SSCAC) was established during the Great Depression as a venue for exhibiting the work of Chicago’s African American artists, with support from President Roosevelt’s WPA. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt gave the dedication speech on May 7, 1941, and it is the only WPA-era African American Art Center of its kind to remain continuously open. Virtually every major artist associated with Bronzeville has been involved in the SSCAC over the years. It is embarking on a major restoration and renovation to make room for expanded programming and make the building accessible.

3831 S. Michigan Ave. • Open Sat, Oct 13: 9am - 5pm; Sun, Oct 14: 1pm - 5pm

 

Edgewater Beach Apartments

Edgewater Beach Apartments is the only remaining part of the Edgewater Beach Hotel complex, started by Marshall and Fox in 1918. This massive, Spanish-style “Pink Palace” was connected to the hotel by a three-block beach promenade for decades. The hotel was demolished in the late 1960s—a decade after the extension of Lake Shore Drive cut it off from the beach. The building became a co-op in 1949, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. It has a unique Maltese-Cross shape to give each room maximum natural light and views of Lake Michigan. An indoor terrace overlooks the original Beaux-Arts pool.

5555 N. Sheridan Rd. • Open Sat, Oct 13: 9am - 5pm

 

Airstream Building

Many CTA Brown Line riders are curious about the classic silver 1960s Airstream trailer perched atop this office building. The former industrial structure was renovated in 1989 to house Chicago Associates Planners and Architects, a design cooperative led by architect Edward Noonan. Looking to add a whimsical amenity for employees, Noonan asked city officials for permission to hoist the trailer onto the roof—but was not taken seriously. With a rented crane, the trailer was lifted onto the roof, drawing an emergency response when the CTA mistook it for a derailed Brown Line train. In the years since, the Airstream "Conference Center" (complete with rooftop deck and skyline views) has hosted numerous events and parties.

1807 W. Sunnyside Ave. • Open Sat, Oct 13 and Sun Oct 14: 1pm - 5pm

 

DANK Haus German American Cultural Center

The imposing DANK Haus building was originally home to the Three Links Association, a fraternal order. In 1967, DANK (the Deutsch Amerikanischer National Kongress) purchased it to house their museum, art gallery, library and language school. Today, it offers more than 150 public cultural programs each year. It is known by many Chicagoans for its large fifth-floor ballroom and outdoor terrace, but it contains many other hidden spaces.

4740 N. Western Ave. • Open Sat, Oct 13: 12pm - 3pm; Sun, Oct 14: 10am - 5pm

 

The Golden Triangle

It’s easy to be overwhelmed with wonderment as you stroll this vast yet intimate showroom of rare Asian and European antiques, furnishings and custom work. The owners have been hand-selecting items from around the world for more than 25 years. What started as imported collectibles from Thailand has turned into an 18,000-square-foot design destination. Furniture, lighting, sculptures, art and architectural pieces are assembled in curated vignettes that draw in designers, trade professionals, collectors and curious shoppers.

330 N. Clark St. • Open Sat, Oct 13: 10am - 5pm; Sun, Oct 14: 11am - 4pm

 

Monroe Building

The geometry of this Michigan Avenue masterpiece is softened by a delicate exterior of granite and terra cotta in a Gothic-Romanesque style. The sloping green Spanish-tile gabled roof harmonizes with the height of the Gothic-inspired University Club—with which the Monroe Building forms a dramatic gateway into the Loop. The lobby’s brilliantly-colored, rhythmic vaulted ceiling comprises one of the world’s largest collections of Rookwood Pottery tile. Rookwood is internationally regarded as among the most important and influential art potteries of the early 20th century. The Monroe Building is also home to the award winning Pritzker Military Museum & Library who will also be opening their doors.

104 S. Michigan Ave. • Open Sat, Oct 13: 9am - 5pm

 

The Givins Castle

Chicago's most famous castle, dubbed the “Irish Castle” by neighbors, is a crenelated curiosity perched atop the steep ridge that runs through Beverly and Morgan Park. It is the area’s calling card, with a history that traces to Robert C. Givins in 1887, the first of only five owners. Givins, a real estate developer, used it to spark residential growth along the Rock Island Line. Built as an extravagant private residence, purportedly a gift to Givins’ wife, today the Beverly Unitarian Church calls it home. Givins spent a then-enormous sum of $80,000 constructing the mansion of solid Joliet limestone, intended to resemble a castle he visited once in Ireland but also recalling the Richardsonian Romanesque style popular at the time.

10255 S. Seeley Ave. • Open Sat, Oct 13: 9am - 5pm; Sun, Oct 14: 1pm - 5pm

 

Chicago Printmakers Collaborative

Chicago Printmakers Collaborative (CPC) is the area’s longest running independent printmaking workshop. The former Penn Dutchman Antiques building was recently renovated with a beautiful skylight and rooftop deck, and provides facilities for traditional print media, including etching, stone lithography, relief, book arts and screen printing. The CPC gallery features fine art prints from around the world—from concert posters to cityscapes—that showcase the compelling beauty of the hand-inked impression.

4912 N. Western Ave. • Open Sat, Oct 13 and Sun Oct 14: 11am - 5pm

 

 

For more information about Open House Chicago, visit openhousechicago.org

Top image: The Blackstone Hotel