BACK OF THE YARDS — Everyone always wants to know about the windmill.
The towering turbine outside Testa Produce ascends 238 feet into the sky, its blades churning and turning over the neighborhood to help provide clean power to the company’s massive distribution center at 4555 S. Racine Ave.
On days when wind speeds reach 35 mph, the facility is 100 percent wind-powered.
"On dull days, it will be kind of sitting here ... so we secretly cheer for windy days," said company spokeswoman and building tour guide Angela Bader.
But the city’s only freestanding wind turbine, completed just before the company’s 2011 move into Back of the Yards, is only one of Testa’s innovative green features — there's a long list that includes a "vegetated" roof to absorb rainwater, solar panels to power the building and heat some of its water, and a fleet of biodiesel, natural gas and pure-electric delivery trucks.
All will be on display during this weekend’s “Open House Chicago.”
Now in its third year, the Chicago Architecture Foundation-backed free event invites members of the public to wander into some 150 Chicago buildings they’d always been curious about but never had to the occasion to visit.
This year, organizers are highlighting nine sites across Bridgeport and Back of the Yards for the tours.
The Bridgeport buildings include the quarry-turned-landfill-turned grassy expanse of Henry Palmisano Park; the Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple, a Buddhist center completed by architect Daniel Burnham; the elegant St. Mary of Perpetual Help Parish; and Decorators Supply Corp., a manufacturer of custom architectural accouterments with roots stretching back to the Chicago World's Fair.
The Zhou Brothers will open up both of their Bridgeport buildings: the 87,000-square foot Zhou B Art Center on 35th Street and the nearby Zhou B Art Foundation and Life's Garden, a hidden-in-plain sight art gallery and outdoor courtyard on Morgan Street.
And in Back of the Yards, guests can get a closer look at the ornate stained glass and architecture at Holy Cross Immaculate Heart of Mary, and at two businesses helping to evolve the historically industrial area, Testa Produce and The Plant, a sustainable food production facility.
Most of the tours take place 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday but there are some exceptions. See the official Open House Chicago website for details.
No tickets are necessary, but some of the tours require advance registration.