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Tour 'Hill Street Blues' Station, Toy Factory During Open House Chicago

By Ariel Cheung | September 25, 2017 7:51am | Updated on October 13, 2017 8:34am
 The 2017 Open House Chicago will include 14 Near West Side sites, including the UIC Police Station, Big Monster Toys, the Publishing House Bed & Breakfast and the Chicago Vintage Motor Carriage.
The 2017 Open House Chicago will include 14 Near West Side sites, including the UIC Police Station, Big Monster Toys, the Publishing House Bed & Breakfast and the Chicago Vintage Motor Carriage.
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Google Maps/Shutterstock

NEAR WEST SIDE — Hundreds of buildings will be open to the public during the 2017 Open House Chicago Oct. 14 and 15, but you don't have to go far from home to check out some true Near West Side gems.

Fans of the '80s police drama "Hill Street Blues"can test out their Capt. Frank Furillo impressions at the police station used in the "Hill Street Blues" opening sequence and in the NBC show. It is currently the home of the University of Illinois at Chicago campus police.

The red-pressed brick and Joliet limestone building at 943 W. Maxwell St. first was home of Chicago's 7th Police District when the city bought it in 1888. Known as the Maxwell Street station or "Bloody Maxwell," police units for gang crimes, gambling and prostitution were housed there, along with 29 stuffy, rat-infested jail cells in the basement.

RELATED: Open House Chicago 2017 List: Go Inside Chicago's Coolest Buildings

"Hill Street Blues" creator Steve Bochco first visited the station in 1996, but it was instantly recognizable to him and fans of the show, which used footage of the station for the main title sequence and background footage.

The Chicago Police Department moved out a couple years later, and the building — designated as a city landmark in 2002 — underwent extensive renovations to become the UIC Police headquarters. The work included rebuilding the parapets and repairing the masonry, but the building's historic lobby and original windows were left intact.

Visitors can tour the lobby, basement gun range and the lockup during the Open House Chicago tour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 15.

The station featured in "Chicago P.D." and "Hill Street Blues" is at 943 W. Maxwell St. [Google Maps]

Kids, however, will likely find the Big Monster Toys offices more to their taste. Just behind its giant yellow door are offices that look more like an amusement park than a place of business.

Big Monster Toys renovated the former trucking warehouse at 21 S. Racine Ave. in 2003 and added a 25-foot-tall stuffed giraffe, a recording studio and a full-sized caboose that serves as its kitchen.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 14, visitors can learn about the minds behind some world-famous toys like Polly Pocket and Jenga Quake.

The full list of Near West Side open houses this year includes:

West Loop:

Ignite Glass Studios (401 N. Armour St.): Transformed in 2013 from an industrial building, the studio also houses an educational facility and event space. Its angular, spacious garden and rooftop deck mirror the building's sharp edges and black-edged windows. Ignite will offer free glass blowing demonstrations Saturday morning and all day Sunday on a first-come basis. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 14; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 15.

Blue Plate Catering's Larkin Hall (1362 W. Fulton St.): Open this year after breaking ground in 2015, this newly constructed three-story facility is home to Blue Plate Catering. Open House visitors will get the chance to look inside the tasting kitchen and indoor/outdoor space with a built-in bar, where potential clients can test out menu options. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 14; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 15.

WeWork Fulton Market (220 N. Green St.): One of many re-purposed industrial buildings in the Fulton Market District, this warehouse was completed in 1893. Now one of six WeWork rentable office space locations in Chicago, it is usually open only to members and features loft-style workspace, exposed brick, wood beams and historic photographs. 1-5 p.m. Oct. 14. Photography prohibited.

CTA Control Center (120 N. Racine Ave.): Visitors to the epicenter of CTA operations will be able to observe the CTA staff operating bus management software, the train locating system and the system's extensive camera network. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 15. Reservation required.

Publishing House Bed & Breakfast (108 N. May St.): A newly renovated bed-and-breakfast opened in June in the last home of the Museum of Holography. Now, what was built in 1909 as The Free Methodist Publishing House is an 11-room B&B with the Press Room wine bar and a salon. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. both days.

Big Monster Toys (21 S. Racine Ave.): Enter the giant yellow door of Big Monster Toys and expect to be greeted by a towering stuffed giraffe and a world of whimsy. The toy manufacturer converted this former trucking warehouse into its offices in 2003. Check out its caboose-shaped kitchen and learn more about the minds behind Polly Pocket, UNO Attack and Jenga Quake. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 14.

Columbian Model & Exhibit Works (1528 W. Adams St., second floor): Meet the makers of intricate building models, including the Chicago Architecture Foundation's 320-square-foot Chicago Model exhibition containing more than 1,100 scale models of the city's buildings. Columbian Model & Exhibition Works has created models for real estate developers and museums around the world for more than 25 years. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. both days. Photography prohibited.

Landmark West Loop (1034 W. Van Buren St.): This just-completed, 30-story apartment tower offers outstanding skyline views, and visitors can check out the eighth floor pool and demo kitchen during Open House Chicago. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 14.

Near West Side:

Make City Incubator (320 N. Damen Ave.): Make City is one of the oldest business incubators around, having opened in the 1980s inside the former Wolff public supply factory building that dates back to 1887. The 110-tenant incubator is part of the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago's many services meant to strengthen neighborhood companies and encourage economic development. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 14. Photography prohibited.

Rhine Hall Distillery (2010 W. Fulton St.): This brandy-focused micro-distillery opened in 2013 in a late 1800s-era warehouse in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor. Visitors can sample the fruit-packed in the elegant tasting room, but must be 21 years or older to purchase drinks. Noon-5 p.m. Oct. 15.

Chicago Vintage Motor Carriage Richard H. Driehaus Collection (700 S. Desplaines St.): Check out the best in American automotive design and engineering from classic and post-war eras at the vintage car dealership and restoration center. The collection is normally not open to the public and filled with vintage cars like the Corvette Sting Ray, Ford Thunderbird and Hudson Hornet. 1-5 p.m. both days. Photography prohibited.

University Village:

University of Illinois at Chicago University Hall (601 S. Morgan St.): Meant to embody the city's reputation for "big shoulders," University Hall was built in 1965 as a 28-story administrative tower. Currently undergoing extensive renovations, the building is 20 feet wider at its top than at its base. The reinforced concrete skeleton and narrow, recessed windows mirror other buildings on the UIC campus. If you go make sure to check out stellar 360 degree views from the 28th floor. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. both days.

UIC Richard J. Daley Library (801 S. Morgan St.): This 1965 building was renovated in 2011 to add lounges, study areas, seminar rooms and a cafe to the UIC library. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 14; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 15.

UIC Police Station (943 W. Maxwell St.): Check out the police station portrayed in "Hill Street Blues," which began as one of the earliest Chicago Police stations before it became the UIC Police Station. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 15.