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Open House Chicago 2016: 20 must-see sites

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Chicago is world-renowned for its architectural history and its contribution to the skilled crafts of designing and building skyscrapers, and our city's famous skyline draws people from around the world who want to see our groundbreaking buildings up close and in person. And to help locals and tourists try to cram as many building visits and tours into as short of a time as possible, every autumn the Chicago Architecture Foundation hosts its annual Open House Chicago exhibition which offers visitors access to dozens of famous and historic buildings.

For this year's Open House Chicago, which takes place this coming weekend, the Chicago Architecture Foundation is opening up 200 buildings across the Chicago area for anyone to check out during the weekend. From stately mansions built during Chicago's gilded age, to midcentury skyscrapers, to the offices of famous architects, there are more than enough places to visit to keep everyone occupied for the entire weekend. And while there are dozens of fascinating places to visit, we've narrowed the list down to a handful of sites that can't be missed.

This year's Open House Chicago will include various sites throughout the near suburbs, but in order to keep the list concise, we're focusing only on sites located within the city. However, there are certainly some really neat suburban locations to check out this year, particularly the Dearborn Observatory on Northwestern University's campus in Evanston as well as the brand new Vantage apartment tower in Oak Park.

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1. Colvin House

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5940 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60660

The Colvin House has an interesting story, and visitors will be able to get a first look at the home since it was restored. The Prairie style home designed by noted architect George Maher hit the market early last year, but will soon become a co-working and event space.

2. Edgewater Beach Apartments

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5555 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60640

If you've ever wondered about the big pink residential tower along Lake Shore Drive, here's your chance to check it out. The landmark Edgewater Beach Hotel building, along with its Beaux-Arts lobby and indoor pool will be open to Open House Chicago visitors on Saturday.

3. Carl Shurz High School

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3601 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60641

Carl Shurz High School, located on the city's northwest side is one of the grandest Prairie School designs ever constructed. Designed by Dwight Perkins and completed in 1910, the school is a must-see for those interested in Chicago architecture. For Open House Chicago, the school is granting visitors access to its auditorium and library—locations which are generally off limits to visitors.

4. Elks National Memorial and Headquarters

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2750 N Lakeview Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

The Elks National Memorial is one of those architectural gems that is hidden in plain view. Located adjacent to Lincoln Park (the park), the round building was built in the 1920s to honor the Order of Elks members who fought and died in World War I. It features one of the most elaborate and ornate interiors in the city.

5. Graham Foundation

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4 W Burton Pl
Chicago, IL 60610

Located in a historic Gold Coast mansion, the Graham Foundation regularly hosts exhibitions, public programs, and provides grant funding for the advancement of architecture and the fine arts. It will be open to OHC visitors on both Saturday and Sunday.

6. Xavier Apartments

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625 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 642-2279
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The new Xavier Apartments development on Division Street is an interesting one for various reasons. It is perhaps an early look at what we can expect to see along the massive former Cabrini-Green site. The building, which takes its name from Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, is big on sustainable design and also features 20% of some form of affordable units.

7. Studio Gang Architects

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1520 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60642
(773) 384-1212
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Similar to other high profile architecture firms that will be opening their doors to the public this weekend, Studio Gang Architects will allow visitors a look into their office located in the old Polish National Alliance building next to the Polish Triangle. The Studio Gang office will be open during the afternoons on both Saturday and Sunday.

8. St. John Cantius Parish

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825 N Carpenter St
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 243-7373
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Recently described as the "most beautiful church in America," St. John Cantius is a great example of the "Polish Cathedral" style of church architecture found throughout Chicago. The church was threatened with demolition in the late '80s, but fortunately is alive and well today.

9. The Poetry Foundation

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61 W Superior St
Chicago, IL 60654

If you're looking to check out more recent architectural gems, the Poetry Foundation's HQ in River North is definitely worth a visit. John Ronan, the building's architect, was most recently a finalist for the Obama Presidential Center project for Jackson Park.

10. Lake Point Tower

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Lake Point Tower is very representative of the Miesian style of design, but feels more elegant and timeless than some other Mies-inspired works. Not only will visitors get a look through the building, but the tower's rooftop garden designed by Alfred Caldwell will also be open this weekend.

11. LondonHouse

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85 E Wacker Dr
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 357-1200
Visit Website

The old London Guarantee & Accident Building reopened this year as the 452-room LondonHouse hotel. Highlights include the new 22-story glass addition built between the London Guarantee Building and Mather Tower and the hotel's and the restored ornamental elevator lobby in the original building.

12. Aon Center

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200 E Randolph Drive
Chicago, IL 60601

Chicago's third tallest building will be open to visitors for both days this weekend. Visitors will not only get a close look at the midcentury skyscraper's flashy lobby, but will be taken up to the tower's 71st floor to get a bird's-eye view of downtown Chicago.

13. Railway Exchange Building

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224 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 341-9431
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Open House Chicago visitors will be able to knock out several birds with one stone by visiting the historic Railway Exchange Building on Michigan Avenue. The building is home to the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the architecture firm Goettsch Partners, Stantec (formerly VOA Associates), and the Chicago office of global architecture heavyweight SOM. The Chicago Architecture Foundation's popular Chicago model occupies much of the building's atrium, while Goettsch Partners gets great views and heaps of natural sunlight at the top of the building.

14. Glessner House Museum

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1800 S Prairie Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 326-1480
Visit Website

The Glessner House comes from Chicago's gilded age, but it's not exactly similar to many of the other grand homes built during the time. The almost fortress-like home was designed by prominent architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who is credited for creating and popularizing the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style.

15. Clarke House Museum

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1827 S Indiana Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 326-1480
Visit Website

Built in 1836, the Clarke House is the oldest surviving house in Chicago's original boundary lines. The home features a strong colonial style, which is more commonly found in older east coast cities. The home has operated as a museum for the last 30 years but will be open to OHC visitors both this coming Saturday and Sunday.

16. Nichols Tower at Homan Square

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906 S Homan Ave
Chicago, IL 60624

Sometimes referred to as the "original Sears Tower," the recently restored and reopened Nichols Tower will be open to visitors on Saturday. Once a part of Chicago's famous Sears, Roebuck and Company as a warehouse building, the tower now serves as a community center and event space.

17. City Hyde Park

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5105 S Harper Ave
Chicago, IL 60615
(773) 355-4972
Visit Website

This striking new addition to the Hyde Park street scape comes from the Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects. And interestingly enough, the development is just one of several new Studio Gang-designed buildings that have recently opened in or are planned for the Hyde Park neighborhood.

18. Yale Building

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6565 S Yale Ave
Chicago, IL 60621

The Yale Building is one of the highlights for this year's Open House Chicago. Located in the Englewood neighborhood, the Yale Building is a Richardsonian-Romanesque apartment complex that was built for visitors coming to Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. It features a large, open atrium and sprawling glass arcade that fills the building with natural light. It will be open to visitors on both Saturday and Sunday.

19. Shrine of Christ the King

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6401 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637

This landmark church designed by Henry Schlacks will be open to Open House Chicago visitors just a year after surviving a devastating fire that nearly destroyed the historic building. The church, which just hosted a rally and ceremonial return of its Christ the Infant King statue, is currently undergoing an extensive restoration.

20. New Regal Theater

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1580 E 79th St
Chicago, IL 60619

Built in the late 1920s, the New Regal Theater (originally the Avalon Theater) was characteristic of the grand theaters built during the time. The ornate theater has mostly sat vacant over the last decade, but will be open to visitors both Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

1. Colvin House

5940 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60660

The Colvin House has an interesting story, and visitors will be able to get a first look at the home since it was restored. The Prairie style home designed by noted architect George Maher hit the market early last year, but will soon become a co-working and event space.

5940 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60660

2. Edgewater Beach Apartments

5555 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60640

If you've ever wondered about the big pink residential tower along Lake Shore Drive, here's your chance to check it out. The landmark Edgewater Beach Hotel building, along with its Beaux-Arts lobby and indoor pool will be open to Open House Chicago visitors on Saturday.

5555 N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, IL 60640

3. Carl Shurz High School

3601 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60641

Carl Shurz High School, located on the city's northwest side is one of the grandest Prairie School designs ever constructed. Designed by Dwight Perkins and completed in 1910, the school is a must-see for those interested in Chicago architecture. For Open House Chicago, the school is granting visitors access to its auditorium and library—locations which are generally off limits to visitors.

3601 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60641

4. Elks National Memorial and Headquarters

2750 N Lakeview Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

The Elks National Memorial is one of those architectural gems that is hidden in plain view. Located adjacent to Lincoln Park (the park), the round building was built in the 1920s to honor the Order of Elks members who fought and died in World War I. It features one of the most elaborate and ornate interiors in the city.

2750 N Lakeview Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

5. Graham Foundation

4 W Burton Pl, Chicago, IL 60610

Located in a historic Gold Coast mansion, the Graham Foundation regularly hosts exhibitions, public programs, and provides grant funding for the advancement of architecture and the fine arts. It will be open to OHC visitors on both Saturday and Sunday.

4 W Burton Pl
Chicago, IL 60610

6. Xavier Apartments

625 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60610

The new Xavier Apartments development on Division Street is an interesting one for various reasons. It is perhaps an early look at what we can expect to see along the massive former Cabrini-Green site. The building, which takes its name from Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, is big on sustainable design and also features 20% of some form of affordable units.

625 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60610

7. Studio Gang Architects

1520 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60642

Similar to other high profile architecture firms that will be opening their doors to the public this weekend, Studio Gang Architects will allow visitors a look into their office located in the old Polish National Alliance building next to the Polish Triangle. The Studio Gang office will be open during the afternoons on both Saturday and Sunday.

1520 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60642

8. St. John Cantius Parish

825 N Carpenter St, Chicago, IL 60642

Recently described as the "most beautiful church in America," St. John Cantius is a great example of the "Polish Cathedral" style of church architecture found throughout Chicago. The church was threatened with demolition in the late '80s, but fortunately is alive and well today.

825 N Carpenter St
Chicago, IL 60642

9. The Poetry Foundation

61 W Superior St, Chicago, IL 60654

If you're looking to check out more recent architectural gems, the Poetry Foundation's HQ in River North is definitely worth a visit. John Ronan, the building's architect, was most recently a finalist for the Obama Presidential Center project for Jackson Park.

61 W Superior St
Chicago, IL 60654

10. Lake Point Tower

Chicago, IL

Lake Point Tower is very representative of the Miesian style of design, but feels more elegant and timeless than some other Mies-inspired works. Not only will visitors get a look through the building, but the tower's rooftop garden designed by Alfred Caldwell will also be open this weekend.

11. LondonHouse

85 E Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60601

The old London Guarantee & Accident Building reopened this year as the 452-room LondonHouse hotel. Highlights include the new 22-story glass addition built between the London Guarantee Building and Mather Tower and the hotel's and the restored ornamental elevator lobby in the original building.

85 E Wacker Dr
Chicago, IL 60601

12. Aon Center

200 E Randolph Drive, Chicago, IL 60601

Chicago's third tallest building will be open to visitors for both days this weekend. Visitors will not only get a close look at the midcentury skyscraper's flashy lobby, but will be taken up to the tower's 71st floor to get a bird's-eye view of downtown Chicago.

200 E Randolph Drive
Chicago, IL 60601

13. Railway Exchange Building

224 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60604

Open House Chicago visitors will be able to knock out several birds with one stone by visiting the historic Railway Exchange Building on Michigan Avenue. The building is home to the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the architecture firm Goettsch Partners, Stantec (formerly VOA Associates), and the Chicago office of global architecture heavyweight SOM. The Chicago Architecture Foundation's popular Chicago model occupies much of the building's atrium, while Goettsch Partners gets great views and heaps of natural sunlight at the top of the building.

224 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60604

14. Glessner House Museum

1800 S Prairie Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

The Glessner House comes from Chicago's gilded age, but it's not exactly similar to many of the other grand homes built during the time. The almost fortress-like home was designed by prominent architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who is credited for creating and popularizing the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style.

1800 S Prairie Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

15. Clarke House Museum

1827 S Indiana Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

Built in 1836, the Clarke House is the oldest surviving house in Chicago's original boundary lines. The home features a strong colonial style, which is more commonly found in older east coast cities. The home has operated as a museum for the last 30 years but will be open to OHC visitors both this coming Saturday and Sunday.

1827 S Indiana Ave
Chicago, IL 60616

16. Nichols Tower at Homan Square

906 S Homan Ave, Chicago, IL 60624

Sometimes referred to as the "original Sears Tower," the recently restored and reopened Nichols Tower will be open to visitors on Saturday. Once a part of Chicago's famous Sears, Roebuck and Company as a warehouse building, the tower now serves as a community center and event space.

906 S Homan Ave
Chicago, IL 60624

17. City Hyde Park

5105 S Harper Ave, Chicago, IL 60615

This striking new addition to the Hyde Park street scape comes from the Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects. And interestingly enough, the development is just one of several new Studio Gang-designed buildings that have recently opened in or are planned for the Hyde Park neighborhood.

5105 S Harper Ave
Chicago, IL 60615

18. Yale Building

6565 S Yale Ave, Chicago, IL 60621

The Yale Building is one of the highlights for this year's Open House Chicago. Located in the Englewood neighborhood, the Yale Building is a Richardsonian-Romanesque apartment complex that was built for visitors coming to Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. It features a large, open atrium and sprawling glass arcade that fills the building with natural light. It will be open to visitors on both Saturday and Sunday.

6565 S Yale Ave
Chicago, IL 60621

19. Shrine of Christ the King

6401 South Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637

This landmark church designed by Henry Schlacks will be open to Open House Chicago visitors just a year after surviving a devastating fire that nearly destroyed the historic building. The church, which just hosted a rally and ceremonial return of its Christ the Infant King statue, is currently undergoing an extensive restoration.

6401 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637

20. New Regal Theater

1580 E 79th St, Chicago, IL 60619

Built in the late 1920s, the New Regal Theater (originally the Avalon Theater) was characteristic of the grand theaters built during the time. The ornate theater has mostly sat vacant over the last decade, but will be open to visitors both Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

1580 E 79th St
Chicago, IL 60619