Open House Chicago: discover the hidden city

Open House Chicago: discover the hidden city

It is no secret that Chicago architecture can drop jaws sometimes. Walking down the street anywhere from Lincoln Park to Pilsen, sometimes you stop in front of a house and wonder what it would be like to go inside. Open House Chicago is making that dream a reality for over 200 places in Chicago. 

The event, hosted by Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), is dubbed at the city’s annual architecture festival. This year’s festival takes place October 15 and 16 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

With a variety of places to see, from theaters to hotels, and 20 of 77 neighborhoods represented, you can easily fill up the two days exploring Chicago’s hidden architecture that isn’t always available to the public. 

The beauty of the event is that it is free of charge. Some houses are not open for the public, only for volunteers and CAF members, but there is more than enough architecture for everyone. 

Starting in 2011, Open House Chicago began as a CAF initiative. It has expanded today to include over 200 sites to “reflect the cultural diversity and history of Chicago, as well as the unique character of each community,” according to their site. 

This architecture festival includes much history about the city and each site, which is a good way for newcomers to get to know Chicago. 

Here are 10 buildings that are worth checking out, while they are open to all. 


GEMS World Academy

350 E. South Water St.

A school can be a hard place to get to see, so this is an amazing opportunity. The first of its kind, this space has a modern feel and cutting-edge technology.

Bridgeport / Back of the Yards

The Plant

1400 W. 46th St. 

Urban farms are a mystery to most and this is a great way to figure it out. With a cool facility and a bakery, brewery, coffee roastery and more, this place is hard to miss out on.


The Forum 

324 E. 43rd St.

A little rough around the edges, the Forum is home to one of Chicago’s oldest ballroom dance floors. What sets this place apart is that it has hosted performances by Nat King Cole, but also provided space for political meetings.


Firehouse Chicago

1545 W. Rosemont Ave. 

Built in 1906, this restored former firehouse has lots of history within its four walls. With much of its original hardware, it’s a great place to see.


St. Benedict the African Roman 

Catholic Church 

340 W. 66th St. 

This church has amazing architecture and amazing history. With hand-carved wooden furniture and original artwork throughout the building, this is a place that should be on your list to see.


Stone Porch by the Lake

300 Church St.

A Tudor mansion turned bed and breakfast, this place will make anyone have house envy. As Evanston’s first bed and breakfast, this lakefront hideaway is a great place to scope out.

Garfield Park/ North Lawndale

Garfield Park Conservatory 

300 N. Central Park Ave. 

“Landscape art” is how this place has been described. It truly is a beautiful culmination of nature.

Gold Coast/ Near North Side

Godfrey Hotel 

127 W. Huron St. 

This is one of those buildings that just makes you curious of what the inside reveals. With a Cubism-inspired exterior and modern interior, this is a place that gives skyline views that can’t be missed.

Hyde Park 

University of Chicago, 

Quadrangle Club

1155 E. 57th St. 

As a private membership club, this is a place that will leave you in awe. With 17 guest rooms, only on the third floor, it will not disappoint.

Lincoln Park 

National Shrine of Saint 

Frances Xavier Cabrini 

2520 N. Lakeview Ave. 

This building will leave you wondering how one can pay that much attention to detail. Among the shrine, is a chapel, courtyard and museum space.

It would be nearly impossible to hit all 200 buildings in one day, but here are 10 that can help jumpstart your itinerary. The best way to keep track of where you want to go is to use their online itinerary planning tool, just to make sure you hit all the spots you want!

By Jessica Lynk