Top 10 Architectural Sites for Open House Chicago 2018

It’s the middle of October, which means its time for Open House Chicago! Even though the Chicago Architecture Center is technically our competition we can still unconditionally love this awesome annual architectural event. So here’s a list of some awesome neighborhood locations we recommend visiting during Open House Chicago 2018 to visit Chicago architecture. We also highlight some Open House spots you can explore with us on a walking tour. See ya around town this weekend!

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Neighborhood Sites for Open House Chicago

#1. Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral

I had to list this church at #1 because it’s one of only two churches designed by architect Louis Sullivan. The church was built in 1903 and contains both traditional Orthodox designs and touches of “Sullivan-esque” architectural detail work. Which…oh my god. How have I never been there? THAT SOUNDS SO AMAZING! I am going to try and visit this weekend come hell or high water.

It’s located in Ukrainian Village, near several other Eastern churches that are also part of Open House Chicago. You can have a religious architecture pilgrimage all Saturday afternoon.

#2. Edgewater Beach Apartments

The iconic bright pink lakefront apartment building is an Open House staple. Built in 1928, it was part of a large beachfront hotel and recreation complex. It’s a little confusing how a massive building on the other side of Lake Shore Drive had a beach, but basically LSD added onto the lakefront, thereby cutting the building off and leaving it with the name and no beach. I’ve visited Open House Chicago in previous years and seen dozens of friends gush over the ornate Beaux Arts swimming pool.

The nearby Edgewater neighborhood is dotted with other Open House sites, including a few notable mansions from the early 1900s.

#3. The Forum

A historic music venue, built in 1897, this is one of the last architectural remnant of Bronzeville‘s early 20th century entertainment heyday. Famed entertainers like Nat King Cole once entertained multiracial audiences inside the cavernous hall. The Forum sat empty for decades and was nearly demolished, and now restoration work is getting underway. Seeing the Forum this weekend will be a chance to get a glimpse before the restoration goes full steam ahead. You can also plan a trip to Bronzeville as part of our custom neighborhood tours for private groups.

Other Open House sites in Bronzeville include several historic churches and Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Crowne Hall on the IIT campus.

Austin Town Hall Open House Chicago 2018
Austin Town Hall is one of the West Side’s hidden highlights. Photo via Wikimedia.

#4. Austin Town Hall Cultural Center

Austin Town Hall Cultural Center, a stately Georgian Revival structure, was built in 1930 and is a West Side architectural landmark. In all honesty, I can’t think of another building in Chicago with architecture that looks quite like this. It’s the kind of structure I associate with suburban civic centers or historic recreation villages. Perhaps it’s because this style of architecture, Georgian and Colonial Revival, was most popular at a time when many Americans were turning inward and rejecting the ideologies and styles of the Progressive Era. And of course, because it was during the Great Depression and not a lot was being built then.

Austin has several other sites, including several gorgeous churches (just like about every Chicago neighborhood), and is just a stone’s throw from the Prairie School Style of architectural sites in Oak Park.

#5. KAM Isaiah Israel

KAM isaiah israel Open House Chicago
The neo-Byzantine architecture of KAM Isaiah Israel is unlike anything else you’ll see during Open House Chicago. Photo Credit: KAM Isaiah Israel

If you’re swinging down to Hyde Park during Open House Chicago, then I’ve got to recommend KAM Isaiah Israel. The building, constructed in 1924 and designed in a neo-Byzantine style, is unlike anything else on this list. Stepping into their sanctuary feels like you’ve been transported thousands of miles away and centuries into the past. In fact, I wrote a whole article about its incredible architecture a few years ago. Plus, it’s right across the street from President Obama’s house!

Hyde Park is always worth of visit and its Open House sites include the soaring Rockefeller Chapel, the neo-Classical delights of the Hyde Park Bank and Trust, and Jeanne Gang’s brand-new Solstice on the Park. <drools>

Downtown Sites

Loop interior architecture walking tour Chicago Detours Chicago Temple
The Chicago Temple is an Open House Chicago favorite and a regular stop on our Loop Interior Architecture Tour.

#6. The Chicago Temple

See the famous church inside a skyscraper! The First United Methodist Church of Chicago is, of course, one of the main architectural highlights of our Downtown Bucket List tour for private groups. I can tell you from experience that this site is extremely crowded during Open House Chicago. You can save yourself some time and learn all about it by coming on a tour with us.

#6. Holabird & Root

Holabird & Root one of the most prolific and famous architecture firms in Chicago history. Even better, their offices are in the historic Marquette Building, which the firm designed in 1895. Incredible! Our aforementioned private tours often visit the lobby of the Marquette. With Open House Chicago, you could schedule yourself to pop up to see the firm’s offices and then come right back downstairs and join our tour.

#8. The Palmer House

This State Street mainstay might be the most famous hotel in Chicago’s storied history. The first Palmer House opened only 13 days before the Great Chicago Fire. Of course, mere flames couldn’t stop old Potter Palmer and his eponymous hotel. The current building, which we stop and admire from the outside on private tours is a grand example of old fashioned luxury. The current hotel dates to 1927, but it’s hard not to shake the feeling of the Gilded Age when you experience its architectural interiors. You may see one of our guides if you visit, since many of our step-on private group tours begin there.

#9. The Carbide and Carbon Building

The fabulous Carbide and Carbon Building has a new tenant. The former home of the Hard Rock Hotel was revamped and rebranded as the St. Jane, named after Chicago’s Nobel Peace Prize winner. Regardless of the new name, this Art Deco masterpiece has been justly acclaimed since it was built in 1929. You can pop into the lobby during Open House Chicago or learn all about the tower’s architectural style on our Downtown Bucket List tours.

Carbide and Carbon Building Open House Chicago 2018
The beautiful Carbide and Carbon Building, capped in gold leaf. Photo by Ken Lund via flickr.

#10. The Driehaus Museum

You’d never guess, but the soaring skyscrapers of River North and the Magnificent Mile once hosted a neighborhood of mansions. Known as McCormickville during the Gilded Age, this was the North Side’s equivalent to Prairie Avenue in the South Loop. Only a handful of buildings remain from that time, including the Driehaus Museum. The ornate mansion, built in 1883, gives you a stunning glimpse of the wealth and power associated with the city’s industrial magnates of that time. If you’d like to see another example of architecture of the Gilded Age, we view some mansion exteriors of old McCormickville when our custom tours take us through River North.

Hope you have a fun architectural experience during Open House Chicago this weekend!

– Alex Bean, Content Manager and Tour Guide


Chicago Detours is a boutique tour company passionate about connecting people to places and each other through the power of storytelling. We bring curious people to explore, learn and interact with Chicago’s history, architecture and culture through in-person private group tourscontent production, and virtual tours.


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

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Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

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With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


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Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

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Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
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Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

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Amanda Scotese

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I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
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