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A marble-clad hall with lantern chandeliers, gold elevators, and detailed floors.
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The most interesting historic interiors in Chicago

There’s beauty everywhere: Theaters, fieldhouses, apartments, lobbies and libraries

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Chicago’s innovative skyscrapers, Prairie School style homes, and Miesian Modern buildings are stunning. But what about our historic interiors? It’s hard not to wonder what’s on the inside of the next steel-framed or terra cotta-clad building you see. There are lobbies, atriums, libraries, and theaters that are truly dazzling once you step inside.

We all know and love the old favorites like the Tiffany-glass dome at the Chicago Cultural Center or the handsome Palmer House Hotel lobby. So, here are a few more historic landmarks that might fly under the radar.

We’ll continue to add to this list of beautiful and interesting interiors in Chicago—by no means is this an exhaustive list. So go ahead, share your favorite interiors in the comment section.

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The Brewster Building

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Originally known as the Lincoln Park Palace, the heavy and rough exterior houses a particularly light and airy interior. Inside the apartment building there are cast-iron stairs and elevator cages, bridge walkways paved with glass blocks, and a massive skylight at the top.

Elks National Memorial

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The Elks National Memorial was deemed a landmark in 1926 for its classical Beaux Arts style. The Elks are a social organization that originated in New York and this particular memorial pays tribute to the members who fought in World War I (and now, other American veterans as well). The interior features a Roman-inspired dome, grand ornamentation, ornate sculptures and allegorical murals.

Reebie Storage Warehouse

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It’s hard to miss the creative terracotta exterior depicting ancient Egyptian imagery and hieroglyphics—its one of the country’s best examples of Egyptian Revival commercial architecture. Originally, it was built by the Reebie Storage and Moving Company but now it houses an antique shop. On the inside you’ll see art glass windows, decorative metalwork, lotus-leaf column capitals, and plaster reliefs depicting ancient Egyptians.

Chicago Theater

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This theater was one of the earliest designed by the movie house experts C.W. Rapp and George L. Rapp. The architects gave every aspect of the theaters they designed consideration from the moment a visitor would walk inside until they sat down. While the exterior marquee is quite memorable, it’s interior is a marvel as well. The Neo Baroque and French Revival style is spectacular—after all it was inspired by the royal chapel at Versaille and featured actual Louis XIV furnishings, according to the Chicago Architecture Center.

James R. Thompson Center

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This controversial interior deserves a spot on this list, at the very least, for its postmodern architecture. Despite what you think of the building, it’s wiry atrium with light blue and pale red is one-of-a-kind especially for state government offices. It was designed by Helmut Jahn and opened in 1985.

The Delaware Building

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The Delaware building is one of the Loop structures from the massive rebuilding that followed the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The Italianate-style building isn’t as flashy as the nearby downtown theaters but it’s not to be missed. Step inside to find a dramatic steel-framed, geometric atrium with long strands of hanging plants.

City Hall

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The city’s municipal buildings run the gamut in style from the postmodern Thompson Center to the sleek International Style of the Daley Center. However, City Hall which houses the mayor’s office and other chambers is a bit more classic. There are dramatic archways, lantern chandeliers, and gold elevator banks. It’s a chic backdrop for couples getting hitched, but really the smooth, cavernous halls are a pleasant place to for stroll.

Garfield Park Gold Dome Field House

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A prime example of how some of the best architecture exists in the city’s parks. The fieldhouse, a gold domed building, was the headquarters for the West Park Commision (the agency before the Chicago Park District). The impressive building features a Spanish Baroque Revival style with twisted columns portrait busts, swirling ornamentation, colorful terrazzo floors, marble-clad walls, and sculptural panels.

Palmer House Hotel

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Now a Hilton, the hotel developed by Chicago businessman Potter Palmer has a truly stunning lobby. The Classical Revival style building with French Neoclassical ornamentation was designed by Holabird & Roche—in short, its elaborate. The interior is massive with towering columns, candelabras, marble busts, gold stenciling, and detailed mosaics.

Field Building

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Want to take a peek at Chicago’s Art Deco? This two-story lobby in the Field Building is quite distinctive. The joy is in the details: address numerals, lobby clocks, and the chrome bridge. The high-rise was built by the famous Marshall Field and it was the last major office completed before a two-decade construction hiatus during the Great Depression and World War II.

Rookery Building

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On the exterior, the brick-red exterior is heavy and chunky. What’s inside? A light-filled, airy lobby with delicate details. John Root was the original architect here, but Frank Lloyd Wright remodeled the Rookery’s skylit lobby in 1905. During this change, Wright brought in elements of his Prairie School designs such as strong horizontal lines and geometric shapes.

The Old Post Office

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Until recently, the Chicago’s Old Main Post Office had been closed since 1996. It’s massive renovation and redevelopment have allowed its Art Deco lobby to shine once again. One of the most impressive spaces (also featured in The Dark Knight) is the building’s cavernous, marble-clad lobby. It was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White in 1921.

Fine Arts Building

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The Fine Arts Building was originally made for the assembly and display of carriages and wagons, but soon was converted into studios and theaters for artists in 1898. What’s remarkable is that the public spaces, including the murals on the 10th floor, have essentially remained the same since the remodel. The best time to visit is during Second Fridays when the building full of painters, instrument makers, and dance instructors open up their studios to share with the public.

Auditorium Theatre

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This theater, designed by Adler and Sullivan, is an immense architectural achievement. The thick, rough-cut stone exterior makes the structure extremely heavy and in 1889 it was the tallest, largest and heaviest building. It features beautiful gold stenciling throughout the lobby, intricate mosaic work, and ornate fireplaces with gilded and bas-relief details. That’s all before you enter the actual theater which features poetic landscape murals, warm exposed bulb lighting, and beautiful arches.

Blackstone Library

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The Blackstone Library is a stately Classical Revival-style building by architect Solon S. Beman, who was also responsible for designing the industrial town of Pullman. What’s especially noteworthy at this library, built in 1904, is that many of the historic elements are still intact throughout the rich gold and granite space. At the dome of the rotunda there are four lunette paintings by Chicago artists Oliver Dennett Grover that represent literature, science, labor, and art.

The Yale

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In a similar style to the Brewster Apartments, this South Side building features a sunny atrium with bright yellow walls and New Orleans-style interior balconies. The seven-story Richardsonian-Romanesque building housed visitors to the World’s Fair in 1893. The challenge here: If you want to see inside, you have to know a resident or wait for Open House Chicago.

South Shore Cultural Center

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Sugar white plaster details. Pale pastel pinks, blues, and greens. Intricate mosaics. Crystal chandeliers. The former country club, now owned by the Park District, is one of the city’s most lavish interiors. The decadent building was designed by architecture firm Marshall and Fox who were also responsible for the Blackstone and Drake hotels.

New Regal Theater

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The Regal Theater recently made headlines when Kanye West promised to restore the building. The building’s ornate lobby has been a star on the list of sites for Chicago Open House and for a good reason. It’s Middle Eastern and Moorish structure dazzles with its highly stylized mosaics, paintings, and ornamentation. A Persian incense burner found in antique market inspired the architect, John Eberson, to design the project in 1923, according to the Landmarks Commission.

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The Brewster Building

Originally known as the Lincoln Park Palace, the heavy and rough exterior houses a particularly light and airy interior. Inside the apartment building there are cast-iron stairs and elevator cages, bridge walkways paved with glass blocks, and a massive skylight at the top.

Elks National Memorial

The Elks National Memorial was deemed a landmark in 1926 for its classical Beaux Arts style. The Elks are a social organization that originated in New York and this particular memorial pays tribute to the members who fought in World War I (and now, other American veterans as well). The interior features a Roman-inspired dome, grand ornamentation, ornate sculptures and allegorical murals.

Reebie Storage Warehouse

It’s hard to miss the creative terracotta exterior depicting ancient Egyptian imagery and hieroglyphics—its one of the country’s best examples of Egyptian Revival commercial architecture. Originally, it was built by the Reebie Storage and Moving Company but now it houses an antique shop. On the inside you’ll see art glass windows, decorative metalwork, lotus-leaf column capitals, and plaster reliefs depicting ancient Egyptians.

Chicago Theater

This theater was one of the earliest designed by the movie house experts C.W. Rapp and George L. Rapp. The architects gave every aspect of the theaters they designed consideration from the moment a visitor would walk inside until they sat down. While the exterior marquee is quite memorable, it’s interior is a marvel as well. The Neo Baroque and French Revival style is spectacular—after all it was inspired by the royal chapel at Versaille and featured actual Louis XIV furnishings, according to the Chicago Architecture Center.

James R. Thompson Center

This controversial interior deserves a spot on this list, at the very least, for its postmodern architecture. Despite what you think of the building, it’s wiry atrium with light blue and pale red is one-of-a-kind especially for state government offices. It was designed by Helmut Jahn and opened in 1985.

The Delaware Building

The Delaware building is one of the Loop structures from the massive rebuilding that followed the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The Italianate-style building isn’t as flashy as the nearby downtown theaters but it’s not to be missed. Step inside to find a dramatic steel-framed, geometric atrium with long strands of hanging plants.

City Hall

The city’s municipal buildings run the gamut in style from the postmodern Thompson Center to the sleek International Style of the Daley Center. However, City Hall which houses the mayor’s office and other chambers is a bit more classic. There are dramatic archways, lantern chandeliers, and gold elevator banks. It’s a chic backdrop for couples getting hitched, but really the smooth, cavernous halls are a pleasant place to for stroll.

Garfield Park Gold Dome Field House

A prime example of how some of the best architecture exists in the city’s parks. The fieldhouse, a gold domed building, was the headquarters for the West Park Commision (the agency before the Chicago Park District). The impressive building features a Spanish Baroque Revival style with twisted columns portrait busts, swirling ornamentation, colorful terrazzo floors, marble-clad walls, and sculptural panels.

Palmer House Hotel

Now a Hilton, the hotel developed by Chicago businessman Potter Palmer has a truly stunning lobby. The Classical Revival style building with French Neoclassical ornamentation was designed by Holabird & Roche—in short, its elaborate. The interior is massive with towering columns, candelabras, marble busts, gold stenciling, and detailed mosaics.

Field Building

Want to take a peek at Chicago’s Art Deco? This two-story lobby in the Field Building is quite distinctive. The joy is in the details: address numerals, lobby clocks, and the chrome bridge. The high-rise was built by the famous Marshall Field and it was the last major office completed before a two-decade construction hiatus during the Great Depression and World War II.

Rookery Building

On the exterior, the brick-red exterior is heavy and chunky. What’s inside? A light-filled, airy lobby with delicate details. John Root was the original architect here, but Frank Lloyd Wright remodeled the Rookery’s skylit lobby in 1905. During this change, Wright brought in elements of his Prairie School designs such as strong horizontal lines and geometric shapes.

The Old Post Office

Until recently, the Chicago’s Old Main Post Office had been closed since 1996. It’s massive renovation and redevelopment have allowed its Art Deco lobby to shine once again. One of the most impressive spaces (also featured in The Dark Knight) is the building’s cavernous, marble-clad lobby. It was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White in 1921.

Fine Arts Building

The Fine Arts Building was originally made for the assembly and display of carriages and wagons, but soon was converted into studios and theaters for artists in 1898. What’s remarkable is that the public spaces, including the murals on the 10th floor, have essentially remained the same since the remodel. The best time to visit is during Second Fridays when the building full of painters, instrument makers, and dance instructors open up their studios to share with the public.

Auditorium Theatre

This theater, designed by Adler and Sullivan, is an immense architectural achievement. The thick, rough-cut stone exterior makes the structure extremely heavy and in 1889 it was the tallest, largest and heaviest building. It features beautiful gold stenciling throughout the lobby, intricate mosaic work, and ornate fireplaces with gilded and bas-relief details. That’s all before you enter the actual theater which features poetic landscape murals, warm exposed bulb lighting, and beautiful arches.

Blackstone Library

The Blackstone Library is a stately Classical Revival-style building by architect Solon S. Beman, who was also responsible for designing the industrial town of Pullman. What’s especially noteworthy at this library, built in 1904, is that many of the historic elements are still intact throughout the rich gold and granite space. At the dome of the rotunda there are four lunette paintings by Chicago artists Oliver Dennett Grover that represent literature, science, labor, and art.

The Yale

In a similar style to the Brewster Apartments, this South Side building features a sunny atrium with bright yellow walls and New Orleans-style interior balconies. The seven-story Richardsonian-Romanesque building housed visitors to the World’s Fair in 1893. The challenge here: If you want to see inside, you have to know a resident or wait for Open House Chicago.

South Shore Cultural Center

Sugar white plaster details. Pale pastel pinks, blues, and greens. Intricate mosaics. Crystal chandeliers. The former country club, now owned by the Park District, is one of the city’s most lavish interiors. The decadent building was designed by architecture firm Marshall and Fox who were also responsible for the Blackstone and Drake hotels.

New Regal Theater

The Regal Theater recently made headlines when Kanye West promised to restore the building. The building’s ornate lobby has been a star on the list of sites for Chicago Open House and for a good reason. It’s Middle Eastern and Moorish structure dazzles with its highly stylized mosaics, paintings, and ornamentation. A Persian incense burner found in antique market inspired the architect, John Eberson, to design the project in 1923, according to the Landmarks Commission.