By Chicago News Staff
Open House Chicago returns this weekend for its eighth year in a row. One of the largest architecture festivals in the world, it allows both locals and tourists to experience sights and buildings across Chicago, Evanston and Oak Park, which are not normally open to the public. During the past seven years, the festival has attracted around two million visits to 600 unique sights, which drove over $40 million revenue to the city. The event is free, with no registration required. However, some of the sites are open for members only. Below are our top five suggestions for the sights to visit, in no particular order.
What: Chicago Board of Trade
Where: 141 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL
When: Sun, Oct 14: 9am – 5pm
Why: The imposing Art Deco Chicago Board of Trade Building is on the same site as an earlier Chicago Board of Trade Building™ from 1885. Being the tallest building in Chicago at the time of its completion, the current structure is notable for its three-story statue of Ceres, goddess of grain, and its stunning multi-story lobby. An expansive vault in the basement, containing thousands of steel safe deposit boxes, has sat empty for decades—making this forgotten cavern an attraction in itself. Throughout its history, the vault has secured items of importance such as trading receipts, silver bars and safe deposit boxes. It even served as a coatroom! However, the vault was never actually used by a bank—just by traders securing their own belongings.
What: Chicago Post Office (Members Only)
Where: 433 W. Van Buren St., Chicago, IL
When: Sat, Oct 13: 9am – 3pm;
Sun, Oct 14: 9am – 3pm
Why: Largest rapidly transforming building, Chicago Post Office is 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.
What: The Givins Castle
Where: 10255 S. Seeley Ave., Chicago, IL
When: Sat, Oct 13: 9am – 5pm
Sun, Oct 14: 1pm – 5pm
Why: 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.
What: Bahá’í House of Worship
Where: 100 Linden Ave., Wilmette, IL
When: Sat, Oct 13: 10am – 5pm
Sun, Oct 14: 10am – 5pm
Why: Visitors to Wilmette’s shoreline will find the towering Bahá’í House of Worship hard to miss. The young faith chose to locate its first temple in the western hemisphere here for its geographic centrality, lake views and tranquility. The Bahá’í belief in the unity of religion is communicated throughout the design, with French-Canadian architect Louis Bourgeois bringing together characteristics of religious architecture from around the world. For instance, the Temple’s arabesque panels embrace natural light during the day and illuminate from within at night, creating a “Temple of Light and Unity.” The dome is composed of cast concrete panels mounted on a steel superstructure, and, to achieve the whitest possible surface, white Portland cement was combined with crushed quartz. The Temple’s planning and construction spanned decades, finally opening in 1953.
What: Old Chicago Inn featuring Room 13
Where: 3222 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago, IL
When: Sat, Oct 13: 9am – 5pm
Sun, Oct 14: 9am – 5pm
Why: The Old Chicago Inn is a cozy 1920s-themed bed and breakfast in a historic turn-of-the-century greystone. Up the front steps, the living room lobby welcomes guests with a Victrola, a fireplace and nostalgic decor. But like many Prohibition-era establishments, another entrance exists… a mysterious alley doorway leads to a hidden neon-lit room where cool jazz and fancy cocktails make for mischievous nights. Descend the alley stairs and knock on the door to this 1920s-themed inn’s secret Room 13. Rumor has it the password is NO RAIN. Ages 21+ only.