My sixth consecutive Open House Chicago is in the books! The weather Saturday was horrible, but not even thunderstorms and unrelenting rain can keep me from taking advantage of my favorite weekend in the year and seeing as many sites as possible. I made it to 22 locations this year, which I believe is an Open House PR for me. Since I have recently forced you to endure blog posts verging on 2000 words, I will attempt to sum up each site in one sentence. Wish me luck.
After years of wanting and intending to, I finally saw the Civic Opera Building, where we were allowed out onto the 15th floor roof deck for view #1 of 2394827 of the (pre-flooded) Chicago River on Saturday.
The Civic Opera Building, unsurprisingly, is home the the Lyric Opera of Chicago, whose foyer and theatre were open on Saturday.
Next up was 150 N. Riverside, a brand new building along the Chicago River (you can see it in the view from the Civic Opera Building’s roof deck–it’s the one that tapers at the bottom) that had a really cool digital art installation in the lobby and more views of the river.
From 150 N. Riverside, a brief walk brought me to 222 N. LaSalle St., also known as the Builder’s Building, where I didn’t take any pictures because I went to the same site last year (so please, enjoy this gratuitous recycled photo).
One block beyond the Builder’s Building was OneEleven, a luxury apartment building (complete with SoulCycle on the first floor) that was undoubtedly fancy but probably not the type of living situation I, given my affinity for old houses and living close to the ground, would have much interest in spending $1773/month for on a whole 525 square feet that I don’t even own.
One block farther on Wacker led to 77 W. Wacker, where Open House Chicago participants could see a shared tenant space with fancy light fixtures…
…and CapitalOne’s Shop, where they design products and inspire office envy.
One of the buildings I was most excited to see was the AMA Plaza, formerly the IBM Plaza, which gains its fame from being Mies van der Rhoe’s last American building.
(If I may briefly interrupt my one-sentence-per-building rule: like I mentioned, it was incredibly rainy on Saturday. It’s hard to tell from the above collage, but by the time I was at the AMA Plaza, the Riverwalk had started to flood. If you look really closely at the top of the picture of the river, you might be able to tell, but these pictures from NBC Chicago do a much better job of showing just how full the river got on Saturday. If you’ve never been on the Riverwalk, you are usually, minimally, at least a foot above the water. It was nuts. The city received four to six inches of rain from Friday night through Sunday morning, through, and it was the wettest October day in Chicago history, so I guess that explains why the Riverwalk flooded so much.)
I made a point of visiting the Hard Rock Hotel, even though there wasn’t a whole lot to see, because it’s closing in a month and a half to be renovated and rebranded, so this was the last chance to see it as it exists right now.
My downtown excursion ended at 333 N. Michigan, where I saw the river once again.
After downtown, I ventured up north to see a few Lincoln Park locations, starting with Sedgwick Studio, a repurposed CTA transformer house that now serves as studio space for several artists creating large projects like sculptures and neon works.
I then walked down North Ave. to visit Moody Church, a church whose interior is the largest non-columned auditorium in the city of Chicago and still features the original seats from the 1920s, which founding members helped finance at $5.60 per seat.
Saturday ended at the International Museum of Surgical Science, a venue I never thought I’d have any interest in but ended up loving, both for the historic information and for the architecture, as the museum is housed in a former mansion modeled after a chateau on the grounds of Versailles.
On Sunday, I at long last saw some south side sites, starting with the Shrine of Christ the King in Woodlawn, a church whose interior was destroyed by a fire sparked by a varnish-soaked rag that spontaneously combusted in 2015 and is currently being rebuilt.
I then ventured a little farther north into Hyde Park to see one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces, the Robie House, which is an excellent example of his famous Prairie style.
After visiting Hyde Park, I continued my journey north to Bronzeville, starting at the Schulze Baking Company, a now-defunct bakery that used to produce Butternut Bread that I’ve passed on my homeward journey after the Chicago Half Marathon twice and wondered about extensively.
From there, I went to see the recently renovated Rosenwald Courts Apartments, an apartment complex built originally in the 1920s at the request of Sears, Roebuck & Co. president Julius Rosenwald to provide quality housing for the residents of Bronzeville, including Joe Louis and Nat King Cole.
Speaking of Nat King Cole, the next Bronzeville stop on my list was The Forum, an assembly hall/performance venue that hosted performers (including Nat King Cole) during its heyday before closing in the 1970s, that included an indoor market with local vendors for Open House Chicago, from which I had one of the best waffles of my life courtesy of The Infinite Taste.
My day then took an educational turn, starting with the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies, part of Northeastern Illinois University, whose theatre was designed in part by Frank Lloyd Wright (a Curbed article that mentioned this venue referred to it as a “Frank Lloyd Wright deep cut,” and if that doesn’t embody the nerdiness of being an architecture buff, I don’t know what does.)
I then ventured over to IIT, where I finally saw Crown Hall, Mies’ pièce de résistance, if you will, one of the greatest examples of modernist architecture anywhere.
Sorry, I can’t limit myself to one sentence on Crown Hall. This building was stunning. Yes, it is, essentially, just an enclosed rectangle. But that’s the point! It perfectly embodies Mies’ philosophy of less is more, and you only need to spend a second inside to appreciate the adaptability and flexibility a space like that offers. While I prefer the aesthetics of ornamented, beautiful old buildings, I found Crown Hall breathtaking for its simplicity.
A short walk from Crown Hall brought me to the Armour Institute, the original building of the…Armour Institute (duh), which over the years evolved into IIT and, after being closed since (from what I can gather) 2012, will soon be converted into studio and one-bedroom apartments. (Sorry, two sentences again). Open House Chicago participants had access to the entire building, from the basement to the attic, and it was AWESOME to wander around (though I do wish I had had a tour guide to tell me more about what I was seeing.)
And finally, I ended my Open House Chicago 2017 exploring at the UIC Police Station, a prime example of Chicago neighborhood police stations.
And there you have it! Open House Chicago 2017. Even with a full day of rain on Saturday, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and loved seeing so many buildings in so many corners of the city.
(Look at that, 1260 words! You’re welcome.)