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9 Must-See North Side Architectural Wonders You Can Visit Free This Weekend

By Linze Rice | October 10, 2017 5:53am
 The Edgewater Beach Apartments, Lytle House, Ridge Firehouse and Colvin House are among the sites open on the Far North Side this year.
The Edgewater Beach Apartments, Lytle House, Ridge Firehouse and Colvin House are among the sites open on the Far North Side this year.
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DNAinfo/Linze Rice

EDGEWATER — This weekend, the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Open House Chicago 2017 tour gives the public a glimpse into more than 200 of the city's most incredible architectural gems — and nine are right in Edgewater's backyard.

With the famous Edgewater Beach Apartments, the newly restored Colvin House, beautiful churches and more, the neighborhood has no shortage of historic or architecturally significant properties to showcase.

Hours that individual sites are open vary, but the free event spans 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Check out the nine amazing places rarely open to the public on the Far North Side that will be featured on the tour below.

Edgewater Beach Apartments

5555 N. Sheridan Road. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

The crown jewel at the top of Lake Shore Drive is the unmistakably pink Edgewater Beach Apartments building. Completed in 1928 as a complement to the long-demolished Edgewater Beach Hotel, the co-op residential building boasts a sprawling backyard and terrace, huge front lobby, ground-floor retail mall, small library and more. In 1994, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and also belongs in the Bryn Mawr Historic District. The property is open Saturday only and The Misericordia Hearts & Flour Bakery food truck will be on hand from noon-3 p.m. Last year, more than 2,700 people toured the building.

RELATED: Here's A Look Inside The Astounding Pink Edgewater Beach Apartments

Colvin House

5940 N. Sheridan Road. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

After suffering decades of neglect as a private residence, the freshly renovated historic Colvin House is nearly ready to open as a co-working space, open to the public. Angela Valavanis, owner of Creative Coworking in Evanston, bought the property at 5940 N. Sheridan Road last year for $1.15 million. It has been a Chicago landmark since 1994. One of the few surviving lakefront mansions on the Far North Side, the home was built in 1909 by architect George Maher, a cohort of Frank Lloyd Wright.

RELATED: Colvin House Transformed: Check Out The Landmark's New Look

Lytle House

5517 N. Broadway. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

When Michelle and Robyn Lytle bought a former auto shop at 5517 N. Broadway in 2015, the property was in disrepair. Recognizing its potential and not wanting to see the building demolished, the pair has since sunk in more than $630,000 in renovations to bring the structure back to life. The result is a completely transformed "secret-garden"-esque space named The Lytle House that serves as both an event venue and the couple's new home.

RELATED: Crumbling Auto Shop-Turned-'Secret Garden' Is Edgewater's Newest Event Spot

St. Ita Roman Catholic Church

5500 N. Broadway. [Google Maps]

Called the "grandest church in Edgewater" by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, St. Ita was founded in 1900, and its massive, ornate current home was constructed in 1927 as "the capstone of Henry Schlacks’s distinguished career as an ecclesiastical architect." Outside, the church's 120-foot bell tower boasts a heavy 1,800 tons of limestone, but the building's interior is what is truly spectacular: over 200,000 pieces of stained glass glisten within its walls.

Sacred Heart Schools - Conway House

6200 N. Sheridan Road. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Named after Richard Conway, the man who owned the paving company which built Lake Shore Drive, the home at 6200 N. Sheridan Road was built in 1906. In 1959, it was bought by Sacred Heart Schools, and in 2010 the structure underwent a $4 million renovation which restored much of its original glory — long after many of its once neighboring mansions had been demolished. Today it's an event space used by the school called the Driehaus Center.

Berger Park Mansion - Gunder House

6219 N. Sheridan Road. [Chicago Architecture Foundation/Allix Rogers]

What is now a cultural center for the Chicago Park District-owned Berger Park, the north mansion at the lakefront park was originally built for home owner Samuel Gunder. He lived there from 1910-1919, and for many years the property was then used by the Viatorian religious group. In 1981, the religious order sold the property to the park district, along with another adjacent house. When it was discovered the park district planned to raze the north mansion, local residents rallied around the historic home and raised money for its restoration and transformation into a cultural center. The property also shares space with The Waterfront Cafe, a beachside restaurant in Edgewater.

Ridge Firehouse

5720 N. Ridge Ave. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Chicago Filmmakers soon will make its grand debut at the redeveloped building at 5720 N. Ridge Ave., a historical landmark built in 1928 that was sold to the group for $36,000 in 2014. Though built in the late 1920s, the building was actually designed to depict an even older firehouse, according to the Edgewater Historical Society. Outside, work has been done to restore its deep red bricks and the extensive cream terra cotta, which includes details relating to the building's firehouse days, when it housed Truck Company No. 47 and later Engine Company 59. Because of its landmark status, most of its brick and terra cotta exterior was required to be maintained. But inside, the firehouse has nearly completed its transformation into the organization's new headquarters.

RELATED: Peek Inside The Transformed Former Ridge Avenue Firehouse [PHOTOS]

St. Henry Church (Blessed Alojzije Stepinac Croatian Catholic Mission)

6346 N. Ridge Ave. [Google Maps]

This huge church at the southwest corner of Devon and Ridge avenues is still known to many locals at St. Henry, its original name when it was established. But it has served as a sanctuary for the Croatian Catholic Mission since 1977. For a period, it was also an orphanage. Inside, its history comes alive in stained glass, red marble, striking columns and lighting. Outside, its small cemetery rests Robert Rueckheim, the grandson of the inventor of Cracker Jack, and the "Sailor Jack" boy who famously appears on its box.

RELATED: 'Sailor Jack' On The Cracker Jack Box Was A Real Boy From Chicago

Chicago Industrial Arts & Design Center

6433 N. Ravenswood Ave. [Google Maps]

Built in 1911, the building at 6433 N. Ravenswood Ave. served most famously as the headquarters of Zenith Electrics, then known as Chicago Radio Laboratory, after its stint in a shack on the grounds of the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Since 2015 it has been home to the Chicago Industrial Arts & Design Center: a space filled with rooms full of equipment and tools for design and art projects. 

RELATED: Zenith Company Began As Literal Radio Shack Next To Edgewater Beach Hotel