Open House Chicago - Day 2

Open House Chicago(OHC) is a free public festival that offers behind-the-scenes access to over 150 buildings across Chicago...no tickets are required. This 5th annual event is organized by the Chicago Architectural Foundation, a nonprofit cultural organization, in collaboration with numerous community sponsors and partners.

Day Two of Open House Chicago found me at the McCormick Place Rooftop Farm. On the rooftop, I was able to see a small portion of a farm that produces 8,000 pounds of vegetables per year for SAVOR...Chicago to serve to convention-goers. This also gave me the opportunity to photograph Chicago's emerging South Loop residential area. Also below was the ongoing construction of the McCormick Place Events Center(DePaul Arena) and the Marriott Marquis Hotel. I also caught a peek of Soldier Field in between two South Loop buildings. Next up was the Clarke House Museum. I was able to tour and photograph the oldest building within Chicago's original boundaries. Translation...the oldest building in Chicago. The interior is furnished with beautiful period antiques to display what the furniture would have looked like at that time.

As I head to the South Side of Chicago, I stop at Illinois Institute of Technology's McCormick Tribune Campus Center, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. The first coolest thing about this building is the orange and yellow outside windows, which make for a slick look walking through the corridor inside from the sun reflecting from outside. The second thing is The Exelon Tube...a concrete and stainless steel tube that encloses a 530-foot stretch of the Chicago Transit Authority's elevated Green Line commuter rail tracks. It passes directly over the one-story campus center building. The tube dampens the sound of trains overhead as students enjoy food courts, student organization offices, retail shops, a recreational facility and various campus events. Down the street from the center is S.R. Crown Hall, designed by famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Crown Hall was designed to house the I.I.T. College of Architecture. Meyers Ace Hardware was the next stop. This hardware store was originally called the Sunset Cafe, and was once owned by thee Louis Armstrong. The original stage and mural is still there, but it's tucked in back of the store and actually serves as the manager's office. But I was allowed to see and photograph it during OHC. The Chicago Landmark plaque can be viewed on the alley wall outside the store. Another South Side landmark gem is The Forum. Possibly the oldest ballroom still standing in Chicago is in The Forum. I was later told that the ballroom, which has been vacant for 40 years is embarking on a long restoration project.

The Historic Pullman district was my next stop. I started out at Hotel Florence, which is normally closed to the public as it undergoes extensive restoration. You could see some of the restoration going on on the first floor level. I then head across the street to the building that President Obama recently designated a historic national landmark. After standing for 117 years as a Pullman landmark, the Clock Tower and Administration Building were seriously damaged by a tragic fire set by an arsonist on December 1, 1998. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency reports that the $3.4 million post-fire stabilization of the buildings is substantially completed. The tower and clock were rebuilt and installed on site in late 2005. You can still see remnants of the fire as other surrounding buildings are still boarded up. Next I head up the street to Greenstone United Methodist Church. This Church is a time capsule of Pullman's heydey in the 1880's. And the organ is one of the oldest in Chicago. My last stop on this Open House Chicago excursion brought me to the Stony Island Arts Bank. Artist Theaster Gates has led the painstaking restoration of this nearly-demolished building. He's turning it into a space for neighborhood residents to preserve, access, reimagine and share their heritage - and a destination for artists, scholars, curators, and collectors to research and engage with South Side history. The library boasts a vast collections of books donated by Johnson Publishing Company, which includes vintage copies of Ebony and Jet magazines. My last stop of the day had nothing to do with Open House Chicago, but I had to get photos of Jeanne Gang's residential and retail development known as City Hyde Park. Jeanne and her crew are also responsible for the Aqua Radisson Blu residence and hotel tower in the Lakeshore East area downtown.