Coolest building to explore in Chicago?
September 25, 2017 1:52 PM   Subscribe

The Chicago Architecture Foundation is opening up 200+ locations for free tours during the annual Open House Chicago event. Out of this list of locations, what are the most rare and beautiful sites I can view?


-I do not want to visit a building that is normally open to the public, like the Chicago Cultural Center, or any of the places of business.

-I would rather not visit a place that offers tours all year round, like the Federal Reserve or The Rookery.

-I love ornamental decoration, furniture, and art! I would rather look at ornately carved finials/gilded crown molding/elaborate parquetry than learn how many tons of steel went into building an impressive skyscraper.

Some of these buildings are super famous, so hopefully even people who don't live in Chicago can weigh in.
posted by Juliet Banana to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (7 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Wow! What an opportunity! I've been researching the Glessner House on Prairie Ave. recently, but it is a museum now so may not fit your specs. I'd go, partially because Frances Glessner, mother of forensics, creator of the Dollhouses of Death, lived there. Have a good time, whatever you choose.
posted by MovableBookLady at 3:28 PM on September 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

So cool, thanks for the reminder of this event. The Powhattan in Hyde Park is amazing - art deco building from the 1920s with a ballroom and big pool. Old ornamental elevators. But I would want to make sure that they are letting people up to the ballroom (it is at the top of the building) before committing.
posted by Mid at 4:18 PM on September 25, 2017

The Yale Building.
posted by yellowcandy at 4:43 PM on September 25, 2017

I'm a big fan of the pink hotel/condo building up on Bryn Mawr, whatever it's actually called. I went in a year or two ago during Open House and they have a sweet indoor pool, fancy lobby, and gorgeous grounds.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:03 PM on September 25, 2017

"the pink hotel/condo building up on Bryn Mawr, whatever it's actually called"

The Edgewater Beach Hotel! (now the Edgewater Beach Apartments, and the beach is not that close now.) My grandmother was a chambermaid there during the Depression as a young teenager. At one point guests could fish in the lake directly out some of the windows, because it was ON THE BEACH. You should definitely go see it because I'M interested!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:17 PM on September 25, 2017

FWIW, some of the places that are normally open to the public have special tours or access to otherwise non-public areas during Open House.

Downtown, the Chicago Chapel is pretty cool - a teeny tiny church on the 23rd floor overlooking Daley Plaza. The Civic Opera lobby is worth seeing if you've never been. There's also a lot of architectural offices open, and while those aren't necessarily interesting in themselves, they're often in historic buildings (e.g., Holabird & Root in the Marquette Building, SOM in the Railway Exchange Building) and it can be neat to see what those look like past the lobby.

A couple of years ago I just did all of the Ukrainian Village churches and every one of those is incredible.
posted by theodolite at 9:04 PM on September 25, 2017

I stepped in to 231 S LaSalle last year, and the grand banking hall was surprisingly beautiful. It's not clear if that's open this year, though. If so, it's worth it, if not, I'd pass.

As esmerelda_jenkins said, the Elks Memorial is astounding. The organization's background may be...problematic (which I first picked up on when visiting), but they built a damn beautiful building.

Ignite Glass Studio is full of glasswork that the artists that work there have created (and is awesome and unique), and there are usually people onsite working on their current projects, which I find captivating to watch.

The Pritzker Pavillion isn't particularly ornamental, but you get to walk on the stage in Millenium Park, which was a cool feeling, and well out of the ordinary for most of us.

It looks like there's no special access at the Civic Opera House beyond what's available during a performance, but if you've never been, it's grand and impressive, and definitely worth it. Fourth Pres I think is also often open, so skip it for now, but is the closest you'll get to a European gothic cathedral in Chicago. It's beautiful.

I tend to go for the big space/mechanical elements/how many tons of steel buildings, so most of the others I've seen might not be up your alley (like I thought the Powerhouse High in Garfield Park was incredibly cool).
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 1:31 PM on September 26, 2017

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