HYDE PARK — With 215 historic buildings around the city open to the public for Open House Chicago on Saturday and Sunday, it can be tough to figure out which ones to visit.
Eric Rogers, the program coordinator who helped set up the annual architecture tour, knows them all and has visited 187 of the sites.
He said Thursday that he’s got a list of 11 of the coolest sites — and ones that won’t require waiting in line to see, such as the the Aon Center, which gets nearly 8,000 visitors during the event with waits of up to 45 minutes.
“For me, what’s so satisfying about organizing Open House Chicago is getting people to visit neighborhoods they might not otherwise visit,” Rogers said.
His list picks spots across the city for those who want to stray far from their neighborhood or stay close to home.
[All images courtesy of Open House Chicago, Eric Rogers]
River City, 800 S. Wells
Rogers encouraged people to check out a new site for this year with its six-story “River Road” atrium.
“It’s this beautiful curving space with a glass-block ceiling, and it looks like a sci-fi set to me, a past vision of the future,” Rogers said.
Lake Point Tower, 505 N. Lake Shore Drive
The building is the only one in the city on the east side of Lake Shore Drive and its several-acre private park designed by Alfred Caldwell, who also designed Lincoln Park’s lily pool, will be open.
Rogers encouraged people to come and check out the views from the 70th floor restaurant, Cité.
University Hall, University of Illinois at Chicago, 601 S. Morgan St.
The University of Illinois at Chicago is participating in Open House Chicago for the first time, and Rogers said the best of the three buildings on campus participating is University Hall, where the chancellor’s top-floor offices will be open with unique views of the city from the West Side.
Stone Temple Baptist Church, 3622 W. Douglas Blvd.
The church was named a Chicago landmark earlier this year partially because of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s time at the church during his visits to Chicago. But Rogers said the church also is interesting because of how meticulously the building has been maintained by the congregation since it was a synagogue.
Pleasant Home, 217 Home Ave., Oak Park
This is the first year Open House Chicago has expanded to include Oak Park, and Rogers said many people may not know about the home built for Oak Park’s first billionaire, John Farson.
“Among wedding planners, it’s very well-known,” Rogers said of the house with a huge porch that can accommodate 100 people.
Yale Building, 6565 S. Yale Ave.
The Yale Building is the first site in Englewood to participate in Open House Chicago, and Rogers said the central light well is a charming and sunny South Side twin of the Brewster Building in Lincoln Park.
“It opens up all of a sudden as you walk into the building,” Rogers said, of the central stairwell past the lobby featuring hanging plants bathed in sun from the skylight.
St. Benedict the African Roman Catholic Church, 340 W. 66th St.
St. Benedict is one of only two parishes designed specifically for an African-American congregation and is a quick hop over from the Yale Building, Rogers said.
He said it’s worth stopping to see the distinctive round native and African design elements, as well as the 10,000-gallon baptismal font that’s the size of a small swimming pool.
Shrine of Christ the King, 6401 S. Woodlawn Ave.
The Catholic shrine caught fire last year, and Rogers said restoring the shrine is everyone’s favorite preservation story. It’s a rare chance to take a hard hat tour of the inside of the shrine before the roof is replaced and the preservation work starts in earnest.
The New Regal Theater, 1645 E. 79th St.
Rogers said the New Regal Theater has been a favorite of Open House Chicago for the past several years and takes him back in time to imagine of the few escapes for people in the crowded South Shore neighborhood on hot nights before air conditioning was common.
“It transported people away to his fantastical realm,” Rogers said.
St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church, 2132 E. 72nd St.
Rogers said the church in South Shore is one of the largest in the Chicago diocese and was built during a wealthy time for the parish. He said it’s worth the trip to see the sanctuary, which is almost mission style, and the lavish marble and mosaics.
Colvin House, 5940 N. Sheridan Road
Rogers said the house in Rogers Park is a bit of an anomaly, with its stark exterior, but with an interior that was redone in the 1930s in a drastically different style.
“It was done in the style of one of the movie houses,” said Rogers, who pointed out that the columns inside are almost an exact match of the columns in the demolished Nortown Theater.
The full list of all sites open to the public for Open House Chicago is available online.
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