It is time for one of our favorite events in Chicago, Open House Chicago. Every October over 200 buildings including high-rises, historic mansions, private clubs, churches and architecture firms open their door to the public. Inviting them to come in and have a look around. Many of these places are normally off limits to the public so it is your chance to see them.
While the main areas of interest are architecture and interior design there are other interesting things to see. Many of the building offer spectacular views of Chicago from one of their high floor. The kitchen at the Drake Hotel is part of the event. While you would think that kitchens are normally not that interesting they are when they are one that can make enough food to feed over a 1000 people at one time. Cliff Dwellers, a private club and is worth seeing not only for its art but for its 22nd floor view overlooking Millennium and Grant Parks. Some of the building are only open to Chicago Architectural Foundation members and Cliff Dwellers is one of them.
The buildings included in Open House Chicago are spread out all over the city and some have waits of up to an hour to get in so you will be lucky to cover more than a small fraction of the over 200 sites. The Chicago Architecture Foundation has a great website that lists all of the buildings by neighborhood along with a short description of each. The site also includes an interactive map. It is best to plan out where you want to visit rather than trying to pick places as you go.
Having regularly taken advantage of the opportunity that Open House Chicago presents to see some of Chicago’s best buildings we have developed a list of the best places to go.
Number 1 on our list is the Brewster Apartments. This Lincoln Park residence is one of Chicago’s most interesting buildings that you cannot normally visit. The glass block cat walks and ornate metal stairs make it a unique and beautiful place. As Chicago real estate agents we have be hoping for years for someone to request a showing in the building to no avail. Happily I found the Brewster Apartments on last year’s list and made seeing it a top priority.
Another great stop is the Tribune Building. It is an architecture landmark of Chicago which is worth seeing, but it is the history of the place that makes it special. Getting to see the boardroom and the office where Robert R. McCormick sat presiding over the paper for more than 4 decades gives you a great sense of the history of this great city. Be warned the demand from locals and the fact that many tourist just happen to wander by and get in line makes for a long wait.
The Clark House is the oldest house in Chicago. I doubt many Chicagoans, including myself 2 years ago, could tell you what the oldest house in Chicago was or where it was located. This is a museum so you can see it at other times, but there is a $10 admission fee, which is waived for this event. So going here is more about saving money than seeing something off limits the rest of the year.
Almost all of the places are worth visiting but there are few more we have enjoyed. The Columbia Yacht Club, a private club, is a fun stop to see what that big ship on the lakefront looks like on the inside. The Fine Arts Building is always open to the public but it is so much fun it makes the list anyway. It is like going back in time with elevator operators and brass staircase railings. The Chicago Temple is a unique place of worship; a distinctive chapel 550 feet in the air. Lastly, any of the architecture firms are worth a visit for a sneak preview of their latest in building design.
Open House Chicago is October 17 & 18 from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm and as always is completely free. Individual buildings set their own times so make sure and check each one before going.