Journalists that we are, we've no qualms in admitting how much we geeked out during our visit to the Tribune Tower, unlocked by Open House Chicago. The stunning neo-Gothic tower, designed in 1922 by Chicago Tribune contest winners John Mead Howells and Raymond M. Hood, uses lines that emphasize verticality for the illusion of spectacular height. We noticed, while waiting for entry, the ornately carved images of Robin Hood and a howling dog near the entrance. American artisti Rene Paul Chambellan executed these designs along with sculptures on the outside of the tower. In the torrential downpour we also spotted a piece of the Berlin Wall nonchalantly built into the Indiana Limestone facade of the building. Accompanying this little historical morsel were pieces of the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, Hamlet's Castle and the Alamo, and another 150 worldly sites.
By now massively excited, things got a little out of control for us when we entered and saw iconic freedom of expression quotations emblazoning the marble walls. Personal fave: Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death!". Pure euphoria. We would have been satisfied just hanging around the foyer, but the real treat came with tours of the 24th floor offices. The building climbs 36 floors in all but narrows considerably as it approaches the top. Turns out one notable press tycoon (read: Col. Robert McCormick) was an enormous paranoid. His office was filled with secret closets and a hidden passageway through a storage space leading to the Observatory a few floors up. These were installed during the Cold War, so we'll cut him some slack. Also notable was a display of famed "Shoe" cartoonist Jeff MacNelly's original prints. We dug the detailed watercolor map of Chicagoland and were duly impressed by the vaulted, wooden ceilings of the room in which the prints were housed. Wet, cold, but strangely un-whiney, this building and what it holds stuns you into silence.