Open House Chicago 2018 Preview

Hello, everyone! October has almost arrived, and you all should know what that means:

The Open House Chicago hype is brewing.

While I have only participated in a couple of installments of this *free* festival since its introduction back in 2011 (and I, admittedly, have little knowledge in the realm of architecture), I can truthfully say that the event has become one of my absolute favorite offerings of Chicago. Hosted by the Chicago Architecture Center, Open House Chicago operates under the premise that in the form of entities ranging from “mansions to sacred spaces, theaters to private clubs, hotels to secret rooms–OHC gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at many of the city’s great spaces that are rarely, if ever, open to the public” in such a manner that attendees can possess a greater awareness and appreciation of the city’s culture. Indeed, I would substantiate this heartening mission, as the deeper connection I have been able to foster with Chicago can largely be tied to the festival; to have such an incredible array of spaces simultaneously accessible, as a visitor, is both empowering and conducive to a burgeoning curiosity with what the city boasts in plain sight and deep within its more “intimidating” structures.

Consequently, now that we are just two weeks away from this year’s edition of Open House Chicago, I believe that the appropriate time has arrived for me to reckon with how I will study for midterms while attending the event relay some of this year’s official sites that I hope to visit in the form of a “wish list,” along with some of the places featured in past years that demonstrate the kinds of opportunities that have made me a true evangelist of the festival.

So, let us begin!

My Wish List:

It should come as no surprise that when I first viewed the list of sites for Open House Chicago 2018, I promptly took advantage of the beloved Command-F shortcut in order to search for appearances of the word “hotel” on the page. In typical “hospitality management student” fashion, I was glad to see the inclusion of the Blackstone Hotel–a property that made appearances in six of my 100 daily updates for my “Historic Chicago Hospitality Hopscotch” project. How I have never stepped foot in this legendary lodging facility in the past, I do not know; nevertheless, I hope I can resolve this conundrum over the weekend of October 13 and 14, 2018.

My memory tells me that this property participated in Open House Chicago last year, but is one that I did not have the time to view at the time. (I was too busy finding out that the professor who had told me to ask for him at the hotel at which he worked, in order for me to receive a tour, had actually switched his shift without telling me.) In any case, this hotel and hostel combination, which originally housed the Tokyo Hotel, looks far too intriguing and idiosyncratic for me to miss in the future.

Representing another entity that earned a spot as a subject of my aforementioned project, the Ambassador Hotel is an intuitive pick for my wish list. The character and Art Deco features of the building, married with modern touches, make the hotel one that would certainly be interesting to see. (I also am just very appreciative of the fact that as of the 2017 renovation, the name of the business is an ode to that which is featured in my “Historic Chicago Hospitality Hopscotch” series: Ambassador East Hotel.)

The hotels continue, my friends. Somehow, I had never heard of the Wheelhouse Hotel before browsing through the list of sites at hand, but upon my observation of such descriptors as “modern boutique hotel,” “masonry building,” “21-key hotel,” and “quasi-industrial loft feel,” this new property solidified its position on my figurative hospitality radar. Who knows, I might even choose to overlook the fact that the facility is in Wrigleyville!

Do not fret, everyone, for the Millennium Knickerbocker is the final of the hotels that I will be referencing on my public wish list. This exquisite property, which–you guessed it–is one that I referenced in my “Chicago Historic Hospitality Hopscotch” project, was constructed in 1927 and continues to boast astounding ballrooms that demand to be seen by such historic hotel fiends as this blog post author (*points to self*). Therefore, if given the chance, I will be more than happy to bask in the physical and atmospheric narratives of the Millennium Knickerbocker.

While registration for the required RSVP from prospective visitors has already closed, I still feel compelled to place the Chicago Architecture Center on this list (the “wish” in “wish list” does have a purpose). The implications of the new space, as demonstrated in the Chicago Reader article entitled “The Chicago Architecture Foundation Is Now the Chicago Architecture Center,” are varied and lead the way to much normative analysis; still, I would much like to continue my tradition of visiting the area that represents the wonderful organization responsible for the festival at hand.

Somehow, I have yet to enter the Civic Opera Building, a structure I have walked past innumerable times in my life; thus, and in combination with my ever-growing passion for the environment in which we all exist, I would be honored to be in the presence of the sustainably-designed Natural Resources Defense Council office. Naturally (pun partially intended), such a trip would also allow me to explore the splendid opera building itself.

Not only does the Cliff Dwellers Club boast the status of a certifiably private club (now home to those who are well-integrated with the arts), but the space also is associated with architects like Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan, whose work, by way of my interest in the World’s Columbian Exposition, inadvertently brought me into the world of architecture. Yes, please.

Prior to my survey of the list of sites associated with Open House Chicago 2018, I was completely oblivious to both the concept of a “bridgehouse” and the existence of the Chicago River Museum. This condition, while slightly embarrassing, does leave me eager to learn more about the narrative of the Chicago River–so much so that the bridgehouse and museum have skyrocketed up my list of areas I hope to see in a couple of weeks.

When I saw that The Forum would be participating in the festival this year, I immediately recognized the name, but could not quite place a metaphorical finger on how or why this was the case. Browsing through the abridged biography of the Bronzeville venue finally reminded me of its undeniable legacy and related rehabilitation efforts, and in turn, has made me hope to soon be able to walk through the space and gain a sense, first-hand, of its valuable narrative.

Formerly adjacent to the Edgewater Beach Hotel, an entity that appeared seven times in my “Historic Chicago Hospitality Hopscotch” series, the Edgewater Beach Apartments display an aesthetic and history that practically call out my name. Especially now that the complex is celebrating 90 years of age, it is one that I would absolutely love to explore for myself.

Trust me when I say that I have been meaning to visit the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum for quite some time now; consequently, if I had the time to do so, I would surely utilize Open House Chicago as an apt time at which to appreciate this inspiring settlement house.

I am honestly just transfixed by the fact that this amazing site exists and will be open to the public. Call me intrigued.

Past Favorites:

Did anyone think that I would really begin my list of favorite Open House Chicago sites that I have visited in the past with anything other than a hotel? Regardless, I must give the Palmer House my highest recommendation for festival attendees, as this Hilton property represents several of the qualities that make me fascinated with historic hotels: the palpable character, flair for the dramatic in design, and ability to walk the fine line between being stupefying and attainable. In my blog post where I detailed my Open House Chicago 2017 experience, I stated that “I could not help but be in awe” of the Red Lacquer Room that was open for visitors at the time, and with the space being open this year as well, I hope that attendees will dedicate the time necessary to fully appreciate the offering. (I also just really love the color scheme of the appropriately-titled ballroom.)

Last year, I was also fortunate enough to enter the Builder’s Building–an entity with which I was rather unfamiliar upon my entry, but found quite impressive. Being one of the first sites that I visited in 2017, being able to wander around and take in every angle of the atrium lobby of the building, including the alluring brass doors that welcome those who walk upstairs, was a wonderful way to begin the day. Finding out at a future date that the Twitter account associated with the Builders Building had followed me prior to my visit did not hurt, might I add.

To follow up on my previous listing, I must state that the first site I explored last year was Goodman Theater; just as with the Builders BLDG, the many areas of the theatre company’s space left me satisfied and all the more eager to continue exploring the city. According to my blog post from October 2017, I was able to walk through and around the Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre, Owen Theatre, the Goodman Lounge, and “the Alice” education center, all of which being immensely captivating spaces that were represented by insightful staff members.

Perhaps from the perspective of many individuals, the wait that one must bear to essentially view and take photographs of a vault door within a split second, before entering the excessively-warm vault itself, is incongruous to the benefits of utilizing such an opportunity. As my short exploration of the building proved last year, though, the stunning Art Deco lobby and pleasing exterior of the Chicago Board of Trade make the experience more than worthwhile.


THE vault door

If you do not presently own and display a bag of shredded up U.S. currency, as I do, I would recommend that you take a trip to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Money Museum during this year’s installment of Open House Chicago. In all seriousness, entering the Great Hall of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago was probably the most intimidating experience I had during my 2015 festival experience, but also one that solidified my astonishment with the opportunities that this event grants participants. And, as previously indicated, the fascinating Money Museum, with its numerous, complimentary bags of “Fed Shreds” in tow, offers the perfect capstone to a visitor’s preview of the elusive building.

Well, apparently, I enjoy the Chicago Financial District quite a bit, for Wintrust’s Grand Banking Hall is a space that I could not dare to ignore when compiling this list of mine. Will those who wish to see such a magnificent space have to wait in a sizable line to, basically, stand at the top of a staircase for a few minutes before heading back down? Yes. Is the hall itself worth this effort. Yes, I would argue.

I will not be shocked if I find my way back to the Stantec Architecture offices, located in the Railway Exchange Building, for the third straight Open House Chicago visit of mine. Of course, I do not have much expertise in the area of architecture, but I can admit that being exposed to the projects being undertaken by the firm, by way of personal tours through the inspiring workspace, always nudges me toward an exploration of the sector.

  • Jay Pritzker Pavilion
    • 201 E Randolph St

Although the Jay Pritzker Pavilion is not an offering associated with 2018’s Open House Chicago, I will still acknowledge what I perceived to be a grand opportunity last year: being able leisurely walk around the stage of this venue, where countless musicians (and notable radio broadcasters) have performed.

  • Oriental Theatre
    • 24 W Randolph St.

Oriental Theatre is another location that has previously acted as a site for Open House Chicago, but does not hold this title for the year 2018. After being able to see a show in Oriental Theatre (*cough* in one of the back rows *cough*) earlier that year, being free to explore the orchestra level, sit in the front row, and simply take in my ridiculously intricate surroundings was an unforgettable experience that continues to convince me that Oriental Theater is one of my favorite structures in Chicago. Please do not tell anyone that I quickly touched the stage, unprompted, while I was there.


Offering over 250 spaces to the public for this year’s run, Open House Chicago is a festival that residents of the city, and those visiting from areas beyond, are simply lucky to experience. In fact, after reluctantly being taken to the city for this event by family members in 2015, this Chicago Architecture Center feature quickly became one in which I could, and continue to, take much pride; thus, I am incredibly excited to see what Open House Chicago 2018 will present me and every other participant.

Will any of you be attending Open House Chicago this year? Are there any other sites you believe I should make an effort to view? Please let me know.



This entry was posted in English. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.