Open House Tour Offers Behind The Scenes Peek At Chicago Architecture

CHICAGO (CBS) — A citywide architecture event this weekend will offer a peek inside spaces that are normally off-limits on most guided tours.

CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez previews the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s “Open House Chicago,” which offers behind-the-scenes access to more than 150 buildings in the city.

Maybe you’ve seen the Kemper Building, the modernist office tower at 1 E. Wacker Dr., but few have ever seen the view from its top floors.

“We thought this was a great opportunity to open our penthouse – our observatory level – to the public. It has not been open in 40 years,” said Kemper spokeswoman Diana Hickert-Hill.

Asked what visitors do say when they come up to see it, Hickert-Hill said, “’Wow!’ That’s the initial reaction everyone has, because the views from here are just unparalleled.”

It’s just one of the stops on a self-guided, behind-the-scenes tour of places in Chicago that local residents walk past every day: hotels, churches, bridge houses, nightclubs, and office buildings.

Bastiaan Bouma, who is running the Open House Chicago event, said the tour offers people the opportunity to see “things you can’t see ordinarily.”

One of the sites on the list for the tour is the Jewelers Building, at 35 E. Wacker Dr., which houses architect Helmut Jahn’s offices.

“It’s super cool. What a space,” Bouma said.

From some of Chicago’s newest and most modern high rises, like the Wit Hotel, to a replica of an 18th century French chateau on the lakefront, the buildings on the tour are as diverse as it gets.

The International Museum of Surgical Science, was once a mansion built as a wedding gift for Eleanor Robinson Countiss. It’s an imitation of Le Petit Trianon, a French chateau on the grounds of Versailles.

The tour also includes a five-story museum housed at the Michigan Avenue bridge.

“The open house value is that you see something that is not normally available to the casual visitor,” Bouma said. “So it’s behind the scenes, backstage.”

Also on the list for the Open House Chicago tour are the Humboldt Park Refectory and Field House, the impressive Gregorian and Tudor-style structure built in 1928; the Powhatan Apartments, a monument to art deco homes in Hyde Park; and the rarely seen basement of the Chicago Cultural Center, the classical Beaux Arts building that was once the city’s first public library.

The Open House Chicago tour is free and open to the public. It will be held on Oct. 13 and Oct. 14. For more information, and a guide to all the sites on the tour, click here.

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