If you’re like me and love seeing intricate architecture and historical buildings, you should definitely plan a trip to Chicago on the Architecture Foundation’s (CAF) of Chicago Open House weekend. The 2018 Open House will be October 13-14. This free event provides behind-the-scenes access to more than 200 buildings in 22 communities across Chicago. The list includes skyscrapers, historic theaters, private clubs, offices, churches, re-purposed mansions, etc. You can check out previous years’ sites here for full listing. The 2018 list will be posted in September.
All of the participating venues provide guided tours and historical information about the buildings and their architecture. The guides were great and very informative, I learned so much on this trip. Considering that I’ve spent most of my career in the architecture/engineering industry, visiting these gems was a real treat for me. Chicago’s architecture is stunning.
We mostly stayed in downtown and some of the Open House places we saw on our weekend in Chicago were:
This almost 100-year old theater has many significant historical, cultural and architectural elements. The grand staircase, amazingly ornate lobby, majestic auditorium all give you the feeling of splendor from eras’ past.
Lyric Opera of Chicago (Civic Opera House)
This Art Deco and Art Nouveau 49-story skyscraper contains a second largest auditorium in North American and the largest stage in downtown Chicago.
Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist
The church was founded in 1924 but its first home was build in 1968 in Chicago. The 7-story six-sided structure includes an auditorium styled after a Greek amphitheater with travertine walls and a 3,316-pipe Aeolian-Skinner organ. You can learn about the history of the church and listen to the organs during the tour. Note from Ann: as we were told multiple times, the Scientist church is not related to Scientology.
Holy Name Cathedral
The Cathedral was rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and today is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. The architectural style is an integration of Gothic-Revival with the message of the modern Church.
Architectural Boat Tour
We also took the CAF’s River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises. It is narrated by CAF-certified volunteer tour guide who shares history of more than 50 buildings along the Chicago River and the history of Chicago’s architecture. It’s a great 90-minute learning journey with hot chocolate and enclosed deck below for those windy Chicago days. There is also a Capture Chicago Photography Cruise and Twilight River Cruise for photography enthusiasts.
We visited a number of other buildings, including offices of prominent architectural Chicago firms. The CAF website has great details about all of the buildings and you can get a brochure that details map and information about all of the buildings included in tours.
In addition to the architectural tours, we also explored some of the other areas of Chicago:
The Gage – if you get a chance, grab a lunch or dinner at The Gage and admire the Millennium / Grant Park and Navy Pier views from their balcony.
Millennium Park / Grant Park – make sure to explore these parks and visit the Cloud Gate (the bean), Millennium Monument, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Buckingham Fountain, and many more great things located there.
Navy Pier – Navy Pier is an area for shopping, restaurants and events. Don’t forget to look back at the city for some great views of the skyline.
Movable bridges – there are 52 movable bridges within the Chicago City limits and 43 are still operable. In the fall and spring there is a sail boat run that occurs on Wednesday and Saturday mornings on Chicago River where the bridges are lifted to allow sail boats to pass. You should definitely plan on being at the river on Saturday morning, it’s a great sight. To see schedule, check here.
Chicago is a great city to visit in the fall. If you’ve participated in the Open Houses before or have other places to recommend, comment below. We will definitely be back in Chicago at some point to see even more.