Part 2: Open House Chicago

On Day 2 of Open House Chicago, I went to three neighborhoods: the Loop, Lakeview, and River North/Streeterville. In past years of Open House, I had spent time going to sites far from the center of the city. The first year, we did a tour of Bronzeville and Hyde Park, which was really fun. Last year. we toured Uptown and briefly went to the Board of Trade (after participating in a historical reenactment there). So I was surprised to find out that there were long lines for some sites, specifically, the sites downtown.

This is when I learned the power of the priority pass. I joined as a member of the CHicago Architecture Foundation last fall after Open House since I wanted to take their walking tours. I’ve talked about the walking tours previously, which are great. Another perk to CAF membership is the priority pass at Open House. So for the downtown sites, I got to stand in a much shorter line. It was worth its weight in gold. Some of those lines looked like an hour or so wait for 20 minutes or so (depending on how knowledge the docents were) at each site. The system isn’t perfect (we got yelled at the Warwick hotel since the lines were confusing) but the card made a huge difference for me. There are other Open House perks; there are a few Member only sites and a few Member Only RSVP sites.
My first stop of the day was 190 S. LaSalle. I had read about this penthouse library so I had to check it out. I quickly bypassed the line and went up to the 40th floor. It was a beautiful space. It was two stories with windows on three sides. You could actually see Ceres on the Board of Trade! It had been used by Mayer Brown as a library but now it was a private club for building residents. A wonderful place.
190 S. LaSalle
190 S. LaSalle
Then I wandered over to the Board of Trade since I was curious about Board of Trade Board Room, a members only site. Part of the process was a trip down to the vault. I had been there last year but it was nice to tip my hat at the giant safe door and the room of metal boxes. The Board Room itself is more interesting in theory. It’s a wood covered room with a strangely shaped table. It was neither oval nor rectangular. It sort of tapered at the end. There were some beautiful art deco wall scones. There wasn’t a lot to see. But it was a room that certainly impacted our lives. The docent suggested that some of the derivatives dealing may have taken place in the room. The lobby of the Board of Trade is my favorite. It’s a wonderful example of art deco with black, white, and silver details. There is a balcony overlooking the lobby that has little owl details.
Board of Trade Lobby
Board of Trade Lobby
Then it was time to trek up to Lakeview for National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini and the Elks National Memorial. I had seen photos of the Elks National Memorial last year and was determined to see it. I believe the Elks National Memorial is open at other times to the public so you can check it out more than once a year. Both buildings are on Lakeview street.
The National Shrine is tucked behind a high-rise. Apparently, the developer had wanted to knock it down but that clearly didn’t happen. I think they built around this wonderful church. It’s not as ornate compared to the Ukrainian/Russian churches I saw on Saturday but it’s a beautiful church with lots of marble. It has a wonderful frescoed ceiling and delicately carved marble (I think) stations of the cross. There are a few rooms about the life of Mother Cabrini. She traveled the world but she also walked the streets of Chicago. It’s wonderful that Chicago has a saint. I hadn’t known that before I heard about this church.
The Elks National Memorial was well worth it. It was one of my all-time favorite sites. You enter into a huge room with a vaulted ceiling. There are giant statues representing various virtues like “Justice” and “Brotherliness.” There are vibrant frescoes all over the room that reference various wars. The building is a memorial to 1000+ Elks members who died in WWII. Straight back, there is a baroque inspired room. It’s got intricate gold leaf covered molding, more frescoes, and incredibly ornate furniture. It was something out of Versailles. However, the people depicted in the frescoes looked a bit off, a little pasty and oddly proportioned for my taste. Also, there was a neat sculpture show throughout the space. Go visit it.
Elks National Memorial Main Rotunda
Elks National Memorial Main Rotunda
Baroque room in Elks National Memorial
Baroque room in Elks National Memorial
That’s all for now. I’ll talk about the final four spots tomorrow.


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