Open House Chicago 2017: What to see

Open House Chicago 2017: What to see

One of the largest architecture festivals in the world, the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) Open House Chicago (OHC) will take place this weekend, Saturday, October 14 and Sunday, October 15 (9 to 5 both days–some sites have shorter hours so check before you go) at more than 200 sites in 20 city neighborhoods and two suburbs.

OHC is a free event that offers the public access to a variety of architecturally significant buildings–many rarely open to the public–including repurposed mansions, stunning skyscrapers, opulent theaters, exclusive private clubs, industrial facilities, private offices and breathtaking sacred spaces.

Participants include: Downtown, Bridgeport / Back of the Yards, Bronzeville Edgewater, Englewood, Evanston, Garfield Park / North Lawndale, Gold Coast/Near North Side, Hyde Park / Woodlawn, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square / Ravenswood, Logan Square / Avondale,Near West Side, Oak Park, Pilsen, Portage Park, South Loop / Prairie Avenue, South Shore, Ukrainian Village, Uptown and West Town.

OVER 100 sites are new to the this year’s event including:

Logan Square/Avondale neighborhood 

Revolution Brewing in Logan Square. Photo: Eric Allix Roger

Revolution Brewing in Logan Square. Photo: Eric Allix Roger

Logan Square/Avondale has is a mix of new and longtime Chicagoans from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Homes range from stately greystones to modest bungalows, condos and rentals. The neighborhood has become a hotspot for some of Chicago’s best and most innovative restaurants including Giant, named 6th best restaurant in the country by Bon Appétit magazine. 

The Logan Square/Avondale neighborhood will be showcasing twelve sites: Congress Theater and Logan Square Auditorium; Stan Mansion and Aloft Circus Arts; Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church and Armitage Baptist Church; Revolution Production Brewery, Chicago Distilling Company, and Metropolis Coffee Company; L- Logan Square, Pumping Station: One, and Northeastern Illinois University’s El Centro.

Portage Park

Portage Theater. Photo: Eric Roger

Portage Theater. Photo: Eric Roger

Originally part of Jefferson Township, an area outside Chicago–now part of the Northwest side–Portage Park received its first settlers in the 1830s. In the 1900’s, the area became home to various European immigrant groups who moved into new bungalows–thus sometimes referred to as Chicago’s “Bungalow Belt.”

The intersection of Irving Park Road, Milwaukee Avenue and Cicero Avenue, known as “Six Corners,” used to be the largest shopping district in Chicago, but over the years has been changing into an art and entertainment hub.

Guests can tour the four levels of the Portage Arts Lofts Center, which is home to the National Veterans Art Museum, the Filament Theater, Art Side Out Studio and the offices of Six Corners Association and new to the Portage Park Open House line-up. In addition, attendees will get an inside look at some of Portage Park’s oldest, most unique buildings including, the Portage Theater, which opened in 1920, making it one of the oldest movie houses in Chicago.

If you want to grab a bite while touring the neighborhood, Tom Donda, a neighborhood insider, says Community Tavern is his favorite. He describes it as a rustic style steakhouse with a number of other menu options. He also likes Taraus Restaurant for their pizza that they cook in their own custom made wood fire burning oven. Another fave is Jeff’s Red Hot’s–“a classic Chicago hot dog joint.” Or, he recommends Las Tablas if you are in the mood for authentic Mexican cuisine.


Bahá’í House of Worship Photo: Eric Allix Roger

Bahá’í House of Worship Photo: Eric Allix Roger

Home to Northwestern University, Evanston has always retained the distinctive character of a quaint university town despite its bustling, urban central business district and a population of 75,000.

Chicago’s lakefront suburban neighbor to the north, has been on the walk in past years but the Bahá’í House of Worship will be new to this year’s walk–a highlight is that visitors will be able to take photos that are generally not allowed. Another addition for 2017 is Northwestern University’s football stadium and press box.

Evanston also offers an impressive list of dining options from casual to elegant including Amy Morton’s popular “Found” and “The Barn.” The suburb is the long-time home of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and was birthplace of the 19th-century Temperance Movement–however is no longer “dry” as it was for many years.

South Loop/Prairie Avenue

Wintrust. Photo: Eric Allix Roger

Wintrust. Photo: Eric Allix Roger

Wintrust Arena (200 E. Cermak Rd.) has been added to the South Loop/Prairie Avenue neighborhood sites. Scheduled to open this Saturday, Wintrust Arena features a unique, iconic roof design that swells upward over the arena seating and will be visible from taller buildings downtown. The arena is part of a redevelopment plan for the McCormick Square area, and will play host not only to DePaul Blue Demons basketball, but many events year round, including concerts and conventions with crowds of up to 10,000 people.


In Bronzeville the First Church of Deliverance (4315 S. Wabash Ave.), Illinois’ first licensed African American architect designed church will be new to this year’s list. The rare Streamline Moderne church is notable for being important to the development of gospel music, broadcasting church services for over 80 years, the longest continuous program of its kind. The church’s eclectic decor extends from a hanging multi-colored illuminated cross to a collection of notable murals and carved doors.
Ukrainian Village


In describing Ukrainian Village “artsy,” “laid-back” and “socially conscious” are words that come to mind.

The “village” is able to offer the best of two worlds. Compacted into a relatively small area, it maintains the vibe of a peaceful borough with a European flair while the surrounding area has all the bustling nightlight, businesses and restaurants that one can handle.

Ukrainian Village is home to a number of beautiful scared spaces that rival some the most beautiful churches you’d find in Europe. New to this year’s line-up is St. Helen Roman Catholic Church (2315 W. Augusta). This Polish parish was formed in 1913, and in the early 1960s the present structure was commissioned. It features a blend of Art Deco, Modernism and tradition – with a Biblical fish motif. The spacious interior and ceiling are decorated to draw all eyes to the altar, which is illuminated by light coming through slits in the walls. The stained glass contains mostly geometric patterns in small fragments of bright, unfiltered colors. A life-sized bronze statue of Pope St. John Paul II greets passersby on Augusta Boulevard.

From dive bars like Phyllis’ Musical Inn to hot alternative music clubs like Empty Bottle and trendy restaurants such as chef Jared van Camp’s Leghorn chicken (959 N Western Ave), Bite (1039 N Western Ave.), Smoke Daddy’s (1804 W Division St), Mirai Sushi (2020 W Division St.), Boeufhaus (1012 N Western Ave.) and others—the neighborhood has it all.

Hyde Park

In Hyde Park, the Powhatan (4950 S. Chicago Beach Drive) is among the most exuberantly-detailed of Chicago’s Art Deco apartment houses. The landmark 22-story building stands out for Charles Morgan’s decorative details, including the colorful mosaics that decorate the façade, lobbies and swimming pool, where they suggest the mural abstractions at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Midway Gardens. The building retains its original elevator cabs, decorated in burled wood, aluminum panels and etched mirrors. The eclectic Art Deco elements include references to Lake Michigan and Chief Powhatan on the exterior, scenes from around the world in the outer lobby and exuberant flowers and birds decorating the inner lobby. “All the luxuries of an ocean liner,” marveled a Chicago journalist at the time of its opening.

Lincoln Park

In Lincoln Park, the 42-story full-amenity high rise at 2650 North Lakeview, built in 1973 and housing nearly 400 units, is opening its doors to the general public offering fantastic views of the neighborhood, Lincoln Park, the lake and skyline from the rooftop.

For a complete list of participating sites, click here. For a brew, or two along the way, check out the Drinker’s Guide to Open House Chicago.

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