Chicago Architecture Blog for Curious People
Chicago Temple Architecture Tour with Prosecco on Skyscraper Terrace
April 17, 2014 by Amanda
On Friday, April 25th, 5:45pm, we are very happy to offer again a rare chance for the public to experience the Chicago Temple Building’s skyscraper terrace and a “Chapel in the Sky” on a one-off architecture tour entitled “Exclusive Temple Tour with Views and a Toast.”
This is our third time offering this special event architecture tour to the public, and it might be our last. Because the senior pastor is retiring, we do not know when the next resident of the three-story penthouse overlooking downtown Chicago will be filled. Nor do we know if the person will enjoy having random people hang out on their terrace, rightfully so!
For this architectural and historical tour, I will share some unexpected stories of the history of this downtown building, which houses the First United Methodist Church, offices for various businesses, and the pastor’s private residence. On this special tour, I will take a limited group of 24 guests to experience the building’s beautiful Neo-gothic architecture as well some surprises hidden in the ornate and colorful stained glass windows of the church’s sanctuary.
The scope of the tour extends beyond church history. Guests will hear the fascinating and radical story that surrounds a sculpture that incorporates an actual KKK cross, and they will walk down the marble hallway that leads to Clarence Darrow’s former office, the famous lawyer for the Leopold and Loeb murder trial.
Then we will head up to the top of this 1920s skyscraper. On the 26th floor we will enter the magnificent Chapel in the Sky with its carved walnut beams and stained glass windows. The tour will conclude with a prosecco toast on the pastor’s private roof terrace with fantastic views of downtown Chicago.
It’s prosecco instead of champagne because from all my travels in Italy as a tour guide with Rick Steves, I have acquired a taste for this dry sparkling white wine from the Veneto region.
As with all of Chicago Detours’ walking tours, guests will share iPads with historic images and video clips while the tour guide gives commentary.
Tickets for the Chicago Temple Tour are $36 for the 2 hour, 15-minute long tour, which includes guide commentary, shared use of iPads, sparkling wine, cheese and other light snacks, entrance to the Chapel in the Sky, access to the private terrace, and the gift of a historic print of the building. Additionally, guests get a peek inside the mid-century modern interior of the pastor’s three-story penthouse. For this special event, I will give half of guide gratuities to a church initiative that gives specially designed backpacks to the homeless.
Reservations are required via www.chicagodetours.com. Group size is limited and only a few tickets are left! Like I said, it may be the last time we offer this, especially as we expand to offer more one-off Detours in Chicago neighborhoods.
- Amanda Scotese, Chicago Detours Executive Director
Chicago Events This Week In Architecture And History
April 15, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
This week’s top picks in Chicago events in architecture and history include a discussion on the fascinating restoration work of the Auditorium Building, a lecture pitting Chicago and New York against each other in the development of the skyscraper, and the re-opening of a local Chicago landmark.
1. Tracking the Lost Treasures of the Auditorium - Auditorium Building, 430 S. Michigan Ave., 10th floor
LECTURE – Thursday, April 17th, 12:15pm-1:00pm
The Auditorium Building has undergone many changes over the past 125 years and in that time lost some of its historic fabric such as windows, furniture and beautiful mosaics. Luckily, some of these lost items have not been lost forever and artifacts from the Auditorium Building have turned up in strange places. Historian Bart Swindall will tell some of these unusual tales including both the successes and failures of restoring the Auditorium.
2. The First American Skyscrapers: Chicago & New York - Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie St.
LECTURE – Thursday, April 17th, 6:00pm
$15 Public/$5 Members - reservations required
Architectural Historian, Barry Lewis, will contrast early skyscraper development in New York versus Chicago first defined in the 19th century. He will discuss significant architects from both cities including Richard Morris Hunt and Cass Guilbert in New York and Louis Sullivan and Burnham and Root in Chicago.
3. Elks National Memorial Re-Opens – 2750 N. Lakeview Ave.
RE-OPENING – Starting Monday, April 14th, 12:00pm-4:00pm
A Chicago landmark, Elks National Memorial, re-opens to the public this week. The classically inspired monument was built in 1926 to honor Americans who made profound sacrifices for the nation. The building is intricately ornamented with a massive dome, heroic sculptures and detailed friezes. The building will be open Mondays through Saturdays from noon to 4pm.
Things To Do In Chicago This Week
April 9, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
With so many things to do in Chicago each week, we help you sift through them and bring you our top picks in Chicago architecture and history. This week we highlight a new experience at a Frank Lloyd Wright home, a Chicago blues performance in historic Bronzeville, and a discussion on the restoration of a Louis Comfort Tiffany masterpiece.
1. After Hours - Robie House, 5757 S. Woodlawn Ave.
MUSIC AND COCKTAILS – Friday, April 11th, 5:00pm-8:00pm
$30 Members/$35 Non-members – reservations required
This month, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House will open every Friday after hours for an evening of light music, appetizers, drinks and exploration in the atmosphere of the Wright masterpiece. With the recent opening of the Robie House balcony, this is a unique opportunity to see the house in a new perspective… as a party guest.
2. Stompin’ at the Parkway Ballroom - 4455 S. King Dr.
CONCERT – Saturday, April 12th, 7:00pm-11:00pm (dance lesson 7pm-8pm)
$10 – reservations required
A super cool overlooked place for a night of Chicago blues music and dancing is the Parkway Ballroom, once a hotspot for music during the 1940′s, 50′s and 60′s. The ballroom was the stage for jazz and Chicago blues favorites including Count Basie and Nat King Cole during its heyday and this event hopes to bring back some of that spirit. Hosted by local artist Samantha Hill, music will be performed by “LB’s Blues Machine” featuring Lorna Boston. Ticket also includes a free blues dance lesson among other fun things to do.
3. Rescuing the Flamingos – Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie St.
LECTURE – Sunday, April 13th, 2:00pm
$10 Members/$18 Public – reservations required
The restoration of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s “Feeding the Flamingos,” designed for the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 here, is the topic of this lecture. After the fair, this stained glass window was incorporated into Tiffany’s own home, Laurelton Hall, but the colorful masterpiece was heavily damaged when the home caught fire in 1957. It’s now a part of the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Art in Winter Park, Florida, and Venturella Studio of New York City recently restored it. At the Driehaus Museum, Mr. Venturella will discuss the restoration process and the correction of previously executed repairs to one of Tiffany’s most important artistic works in the decorative arts of the 19th century.
Events This Week In Chicago Architecture and History
April 1, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
We bring you our top picks for events this week in Chicago architecture and history. This week we highlight a talk on urban revitalization in a South-side community, a workshop to make your vintage home energy efficient, and a book launch and discussion exploring Chicago as a catalyst for architectural speculation.
1. Transforming Abandoned CHA Property: Dorchester Artist Housing Collaborative - Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 S. Michigan Ave., Lecture Hall
TALK – Wednesday, April 2nd, 12:15pm-1:00pm
Few of Chicago’s large-scale public housing projects have survived the wrecking ball. Luckily, one Chicago Housing Authority property on the South-Side is being revitalized by the Dorchester Artist Housing Collaborative with the help of Brinshore Development, the Rebuild Foundation and Landon Bone Baker Architects. The LunchTalk @ CAF this week will dig into the work to rehabilitate the abandoned Dante Harper housing project and discuss its development into a thriving hub of arts and culture for a community lacking in both.
2. Greening Your Vintage Home – Chicago Center for Green Technology, 445 N. Sacramento Blvd.
WORKSHOP – Thursday, April 3rd, 6:00pm-7:30pm
FREE – requires reservations
Learn practical and affordable ways to make your vintage home more energy efficient. Hosted by the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, the workshop will include how greening your home improves indoor air quality, conserves resources, and enhances the comfort and performance of an older home without sacrificing materials and architectural details that make a vintage home unique.
3. Chicagoisms: The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation – Graham Foundation, 4 W. Burton Pl.
PANEL DISCUSSION – Saturday, April 5th, 2:00pm
FREE – reservations required
Chicagoisms: The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation is a publication about the history of instigating and communicating radical architectural and urban visions in Chicago and shares how Chicago has been a mediator of ideas as well as an initiator of speculation in architecture. To launch the new book, the editors and some contributors will introduce and discuss the book’s theme. The launch is held in conjunction with the opening of the “Chicagoisms” exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.
A Hidden Chicago Museum: Pritzker Military Library
March 27, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
Chicago is known for some incredible museums often flooded by tourists on a daily basis, and Chicago has so many museums to offer beyond the Museum Campus. Last month, with the Chicago Tour-Guide Professionals Association, I got to take a guided tour of a lesser-known Chicago museum, the Pritzker Military Museum and Library. I was pleasantly surprised.
My initial bias was that a military museum and tour would be a stuffy talk of war heroes and pro-military propaganda, so I had prepared to hide my yawns. Instead the museum tour was filled with fascinating and contemporary history shown through displays of art and artifacts that could be appreciated by anyone – not just people who geek out about our armed forces. Long time member of the museum staff and our tour guide, Paul Grasmehr, explained that the museum’s focus was on the “citizen soldier,” otherwise known as an average soldier, which helps make the museum so approachable.
The first stop on the tour was an exhibit entitled, “American Icons of the Great War.” Colonel James Pritzker, who founded this Chicago museum and library in 2003, acquired an extensive collection of military artifacts from family generations past that includes original propaganda posters from WWI, some of which are on display in this exhibit. Each poster depicts one of many iconic American commercial symbols, such as the Doughboy, Columbia, or the Christy Girl. The history behind each symbol is explained in the exhibit and our guide shared additional and unexpected stories. My favorite was about Uncle Sam. The image of Uncle Sam has been recreated numerous times and most famously by James Montgomery Flagg for his posters from WWI. What I found so interesting was that Mr. Flagg also used himself as the model for Uncle Sam which immortalized him as this great symbol of American patriotism.
On my guided tour, I also enjoyed listening to our guide Paul share personal stories of individual soldiers that helped connect you with the lives of these everyday heros. There was a soldier who was shot in battle and continued to fight for six hours in below-freezing temperatures, shoeless! This Chicago museum’s collection and exhibition of these military stories is quite impressive. The Pritzker Military Museum and Library has a state-of-the-art auditorium and sound booth, which I also got to see on the tour. Here the museum records interviews with veterans as well as medal of honor ceremonies, which are special events open to the public.
Despite the name, this Chicago museum displays far more than just oil paintings and dusty books. Other cool stuff I encountered on my visit to the Priztker Military Museum and Library were old military-inspired comic books and Walt Disney cartoons. You can even check-out and play military-themed board games right there in the museum. You can also browse the Pritzker’s collection of military propaganda posters for sale as a souvenier. My favorite military poster was this one that promotes “Eat More Cottage Cheese.”
And then to top it off, the building that houses the museum and library has some great Chicago history and architecture. Known as the Monroe Building, it was completed in 1912 by Holabird and Roche and the penthouse was once home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio. Colonel Pritzker has lovingly restored the entire building including the opulent lobby space with terra cotta tiles from the first female-owned manufacturing company, Rookwood Pottery. A free exhibit in the lobby shares the story of the recent architectural restoration and the lobby’s terra cotta tiles.
With so much to see here and only $5 for admission to the museum, I am certainly inspired to visit again and explore more Chicago museums that are off the beaten path.
–Jenn Harrman, Tour Guide
Chicago at Night and History of the Planetarium
March 20, 2014 by Elizabeth Tieri
In Chicago at night, reference to the sky is most often for the architecture of the skyline and the lights. I must confess, the skyline of Chicago at night is one of my favorite sights in all the world. Chicago’s skyline, however, overshadows the sky itself. So let’s set the buildings aside a moment to explore Chicago’s night sky. Looking up in Chicago at night today, we see very few stars. I must admit, this is one of my least favorite things about Chicago.
So I took myself on a trip to the Adler Planetarium during one of its free days. At America’s first planetarium, people often flock to one of its theaters for a show, either from the historic Zeiss projector or the more modern options. I preferred, however, to explore the museum, where I experienced the difficulty of a moon jump and played as an ancient astronomer with telescopes and other early observation tools. It was here I stumbled upon the Atwood Sphere, a metal sphere that demonstrates the sky of Chicago at night, circa 1913. That is, Chicago’s night sky… back when it had stars!
Though the guided tour of the Atwood Sphere is an additional ticket, it is well worth the mere $6. You get to experience the charm and wonder of astronomy over 100 years ago. When you step into this metal sphere, it closes around you so that you are essentially sitting inside a metal ball. The Atwood Sphere is precisely perforated to allow the light of the museum to shine through in the otherwise dark interior. These light dots represent exactly the celestial bodies that were once visible from Chicago–692 to be exact. The sphere turns around you to display an entire year’s rotation. Our guide pointed out different constellations and planets as they circled over our faux sky.
After the creaking contraption opens up and you hop back into present-day technology, just past the sphere is an exhibit on light pollution. Light pollution in Chicago means that Chicago at night has lost a vast majority of the stars. This whole experience was so cool, I was hooked and it’s what inspired me to dig a little deeper into the history of the sphere and the planetarium.
The Adler Planetarium is housed in a twelve-sided building with a large dome for the Zeiss projector’s show. This style of dome has become synonymous with planetariums nowadays, but it was a new concept in the early 20th century. More often, people over history have learned about stars on maps and globes They had to view the heavens from an outer perspective of two dimensions. Projections on a dome allowed viewers to see the sky as we see it from Earth–that is, from below. This approach is what made the Atwood Sphere such an approachable tool in learning astronomy as well.
Early accounts of the experience in 1913 brag about the ability to study the stars without concern for weather or time, “turning the sky about at will, or causing the stars to stand still in their tracks.” By the ’30s, the Atwood Sphere had lost its luster in Chicago. Though the U.S. Navy used it for teaching navigation in the ’40s, the Chicago Daily News featured the Atwood Sphere in its 1956 White Elephant Festival.
The Atwood Sphere was originally housed in Chicago’s first natural history museum, the Laflin Memorial Building. Today it is part of the Lincoln Park Zoo. Matthew Laflin was an early settler of Chicago who had lived in Fort Dearborn and made a good deal of money off real estate holdings. In 1893 he donated to the Chicago Academy of Sciences to build Chicago’s first natural history museum. Laflin insisted the museum should be free to allow equal access for everyone to its natural history collections. Looking at the building’s architecture, we see columns and a pediment, which are classical features. This architectural style was very prominent during and after the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.
Though the Atwood Sphere has been altered and moved about over history, today it is restored to its original glory at the Adler Planetarium. The ride into the Atwood Sphere will not only let you marvel at the stars but also–I hope–motivate you to turn off a light or two in combat of the changes to the stars we see in Chicago at night.
– Elizabeth Tieri, Chicago Detours Tour Guide
Free Events In Chicago Architecture and History
March 18, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
We find our top three special free events in Chicago architecture and history each week to share with you. This week we bring you three free events which include an interactive exploration into the history of Streeterville, a lunchtime lecture on the adaptation of public libraries, and an afternoon of much needed de-stressing.
1. MCA Live: Pocket Guide to Hell- Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave.
TALK, TOUR, REENACTMENT – Tuesday, March 18th, 6:00pm-8:00pm
Paul Durica’s program of talks, tours and reenactments of his Pocket Guide to Hell attract Chicagoans who want to learn more about Chicago labor history, social justice, or true crime. Guests at Pocket Guide to Hell’s special events are encouraged to speak up and either challenge the stories told or tell their own stories. Paul and his entourage use props, costumes, music, poetry, and jokes for the whole experience. This week at the MCA, this talk/tour/reenactment explores the history of the Chicago neighborhood of Streeterville.
2. Trends & Narratives in Public Library Design – Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 S. Michigan Ave., Lecture Hall
TALK – Wednesday, March 19th, 12:15pm-1:00pm
Despite rapidly changing cultural, educational and technological trends, libraries have managed to stay relevant in today’s society, but rarely get credit for doing so. This week’s Lunch Talk @CAF features Chicago architect Don McKay, President and Principle at Nagle Hartray Architecture. He will discuss his architecture firm’s work on public libraries, specifically the Fountaindale Public Library in nearby Bolingbrook. McKay will further evaluate how their architectural design solutions address new trends in library services and the library’s role as a community center.
3. MCA Live: Stress/De-Stress – Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave.
FILM SCREENING – Sunday, March 23rd, 3:00pm-4:30pm
In collaboration with Chicago Film Archives and Nightingale Cinema, the MCA presents Stress / De-Stress, a night of “expanded cinema and guided meditation.” Amateur and industrial films come alive through a three-projector performance set to a live reading by Chicago-based writers Mairead Case and Ed Crouse, and the music of Joshua Dumas. Unlikely pairings of images from unexpected Chicago places create a relaxing environment to sit back and be guided by the words of Case and Crouse. I’m sure we could all use an evening of de-stressing.
- Amanda Scotese
For this week’s list of special events in architecture and history, we are highlighting a talk of unexpected stories of downtown buildings, a workshop to discover and preserve this history of your home and neighborhood, and a discussion on improvement projects in historic Jackson Park.
1. Unexpected Stories of Nearby Buildings You Never Knew – Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson Blvd., Library
TALK - Wednesday, March 12th, 5:30pm
FREE, Reservations required – send names of all guests to email@example.com
Join Chicago Detours Executive Director Amanda Scotese for a discussion on the unexpected history and stories behind buildings in the financial district. The talk will feature the Continental Bank Building, home of one of the biggest bank failures in history, and the Marquette Building, home of the MacArthur Foundation and the quirky John D. MacArthur. She’ll talk about the interesting and sometimes weird uses of the Union League Clubhouse over history, including a secret bar. The presentation is free and open to non-members, allowing outsiders a rare glimpse at the club’s beautiful architectural interiors.
2. Discover Your Home’s History Workshop - Blackstone Branch Public Library, 4904 S. Lake Park Ave.
WORKSHOP – Wednesday, March 12th, 6:00pm-7:30pm
FREE – reservations required (RSVP at 773.329.4243)
Ever wondered about the history of your house or been curious about the development of your neighborhood? As part of the NHS Chicago Vintage Home Series, architectural historian and historic preservation consultant Carla Bruni gives you the tools to discover the history of the places that matter to you. Also included in this special event in architecture will be a lesson on how to get your home, block, or neighborhood listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with insights into the potential tax benefits associated with National Register designation.
3. Garden of the Phoenix, Jackson Park – Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., Claudia Cassidy Auditorium
LECTURE – Thursday, March 13th, 12:15pm
Robert Karr, Jr., an attorney, author, and urban parks advocate will discuss the improvement of Jackson Park through projects he is leading including the Garden of the Phoenix, one of the most important sites in America reflecting the past and the future of U.S.-Japan relations. In 2013, over 120 cherry blossom trees were planted in and around this site to commemorate its extraordinary history and to usher in a new era of the Garden the relationship between these two nations in Chicago. The lecture is part of the Friends of the Parks’ Walter Netsch Lecture Series.
Three Architecture and History Events in Chicago This Week
March 4, 2014 by Amanda
In this week’s list of events in Chicago architecture and history, we highlight a behind-the-scenes tour of an architecture firm, a pub crawl of Chicago’s entertainment history, and a Mardi Gras-style party celebrating the year of our city’s birth.
1. Chicago’s 177th Birthday Celebration – Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St.
CELEBRATION – Tuesday, March 4th, 10:30am-7pm
Chicago turns 177 years old on Tuesday with a Mardi Gras-themed celebration and food truck rally in downtown’s Daley Plaza. The event kicks off with a short program including a drum interpretation of “Happy Birthday” by the American Indian Center of Chicago and a Mardi Gras-style parade into the plaza where DJ Lisa Rene will provide all-day entertainment. Enjoy a host of food trucks with lunchtime and after work dining options or relax with a glass of beer or wine from Goose Island. And most importantly, there will be free cake from Eli’s Cheesecake!
2. Tour of bKL Architecture LLC -225 N. Columbus Dr., Suite 100
TOUR – Tuesday March 4th, 6pm-9pm
FREE – reservations required
For architecture enthusiasts of Chicago, this week the Young Architects Forum Meetup Group is offering a brief studio tour and firm overview of bKL Architecture LLC. One can network afterwards over free pizza, generously provided by the firm, and drink specials off wine, beer, and cocktails from Filini Bar & Restaurant.
3. Historic Chicago Bar Walking Tour – 435 N. Michigan Ave., inside Argo Tea
TOUR – Saturdays, 5:45pm
$34 plus drinks – reservations required
Due to the popularity of our Historic Chicago Bar Tour, Chicago Detours is permanently adding a second Saturday evening tour to our regular Saturday 5pm tour schedule. On this tour we drink, eat and learn about the history of Chicago entertainment, meaning anything from jazz history to prohibition, social clubs, and nightlife. Plus we look at some spectacular Chicago architecture on this walking tour that stays mostly indoors.
Three Chicago Architecture and History Events This Week
February 25, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
Every week we give you three architectural and historical art openings, screenings, lectures or other great activities. This week’s Chicago architecture and history events include a discussion on the rise of the skyscraper, a performance of music by Frank Lloyd Wright’s father, and art work celebrating the culture of Bronzeville.
1. Augustus Higginson speaks on “Chicago and The Skyscraper: from 1880 to 1934″ – Out of Line Art Gallery, 2812 W. Chicago Ave.
TALK - Wednesday, February 26th – 7:30pm-9:00pm
FREE – reservations required
Artist, architectural historian, and teacher, Augustus Higginson, will address the rise of the skyscraper from the late 19th century to the Great Depression, discussing styles from the Victorian through the Art Deco periods. Higginson’s mixed media artwork is currently on display at the gallery as part of the current group art show, “Chicago City on the Make,” which runs until March 8th.
2. Samantha Hill: Topographical Depictions of the Bronzeville Renaissance - Blanc Gallery, 4445 S. King Dr.
ART OPENING - Thursday, February 28th, 6:00pm-9:00pm
In conjunction with the her interactive art exhibit at the Hyde Park Art Center, Samantha Hill explores the essence of portraiture by developing a Photographer’s Studio within Blanc Gallery to hold Tintype photography sessions of Bronzeville residents, community organizers and cultural producers to commemorate this moment for history. The Tintype portraits will be on display with Tintypes and Photo Booth portraits from the Kinship Project Archive to connect the various styles of self-documentation within historic moments. As an artist-in-residence for the overreaching exhibit at Hyde Park Art Center, Hill will also hold “office hours” in the gallery there from 11am-3pm every Saturday until May 17th.
3. David Patterson: The Music of William Carey Wright - Unity Temple, 875 Lake St., Oak Park, IL
MUSIC PERFORMANCE – Thursday, February 28, 2013 – 7:30 pm-9pm
$15-$18 – call (708) 383-8873 for tickets
The happiest moments in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Autobiography are his stories of a very musical childhood, revolving around his father, William Carey Wright, a musician and composer. Premiering his successful Kickstarter project, music historian David Patterson paints a portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright’s father in words and music, giving us a fresh perspective not only on the architect’s upbringing, but on the father whose musical mind was so essential to Frank’s architecture.