By Yolanda Perdomo, CBS Digital Producer

CHICAGO (CBS) — Want to see spectacular structures while getting a little exercise this weekend?

The annual Open House Chicago event will have buildings across the city (and a few suburbs) open for the public. People will have a chance to check out a neighborhood they’ve never visited, or a place that may have piqued some interest but never had a moment to peek inside.

Organized by the Chicago Architecture Center, this year’s event will have more than 350 spaces with its doors open. The CAC has put out a guide on what’s available to see.

Eric Rogers, manager of OHC, said the best way to approach the event is to divide and conquer.

“Pick an area that you’re curious about, where you know there are one or two sites that you absolutely need to see,” Rogers said. “And just go see everything there. And kind of make a day or afternoon of it.”


And while it may seem difficult to have a communal experience with thousands of people in Chicago, the CAC wants visitors to use social media sites like FacebookTwitter and Instagram to document where they’ve gone using hashtags like #OHC2019. Those images can inspire others to see something not on their radar.

Along with admiring unique architecture and design offerings, Open House Chicago will also present live events. They include church services, a pipe organ demonstration, live concerts, art workshops, a pancake breakfast, a beer stein exhibit (with beer and pretzels, of course) and even a 5K run-walk.

Here are a few notable, famous and not so famous spaces. Check out the CAC’s Open House Chicago site  for details on hours and location. There’s even an interactive map to help you organize your visits.


(Credit: Chicago Architecture Center)

Starting with the suburb of Wilmette, the iconic Bahá’í House of Worship will welcome visitors of all faiths and will allow people to take pictures, normally not allowed inside.

A little further northwest, the Terrence J. O’Brien Water Reclamation Plant in Skokie can be a learning experience for anyone wanting to know how millions of gallons of water are filtered throughout the area with the latest technologies associated with the complicated process.

July 13, 2018
Drone operations, aerial photography and videography of the Terrence O’Brien Water Reclamation Plan

Ever wanted to see where CTA trains go to rest after taking thousands of people along for rides every day? The CTA Skokie Shops in Rogers Park might be worth a visit. The giant complex is a maintenance facility for the entire fleet of CTA cars.

The NEIU El Centro building is blue on one side, but if you walk around, it turns yellow. You can see this optical illusion up-close if you hit the Avondale neighborhood. Opened in 2014, rooftop access will provide gorgeous panoramic views of the city.


(Credit: Chicago Architecture Center)

An Open House Chicago favorite stop, the Chicago Board of Trade Building will have its giant gleaming vaults open to the public.  The Art Deco building was once the tallest building in Chicago. From the outside, the imposing structure is topped by a statue of Ceres, the goddess of grain.

If opulent interiors are your thing, don’t miss the James M. Nederlander Theatre (originally named the Oriental Theatre) which was built in 1926, as a movie theater. But live performances were also featured long ago, including the Three Stooges, Duke Ellington and Judy Garland.

The tallest church building in the world is located in Chicago, steps from Daley Plaza. The First United Methodist Church at the Church Temple rubs shoulders with skyscrapers in the loop. It’s also listed as home to the oldest congregation in the city.


On the campus of UIC, a small house honors a Chicago giant who fought for the rights of the poor and immigrant communities during the early 20th century. The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, according to the CAC, “honors social reformer Jane Addams, the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and her work to improve the lives of Chicago immigrants and transform policy on education, public health, labor practices, and immigrant rights.”

(Credit: Chicago Architecture Center)

A 14-story Nichols Tower at Homan Square tower in the North Lawndale neighborhood was once part of the Sears, Roebuck & Company complex. It’s the surviving structure of the former Sears site (its Merchandise Building was leveled decades ago) but the tower stands tall, today, as a community center.

The Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica & National Shrine is located in the Garfield Park neighborhood and if you’re doing a tour of sacred spaces, this one should be on the list. With seating for 1,200 people, its size is almost as spectacular as its domed ceiling.

A warm respite from the chilly weather could be the Garfield Park Conservatory.  It was once the largest greenhouse in the world. During this weekend, you may be able to visit a cabbage patch and take home your very own vegetable.


The Stony Island Arts Bank takes its name from the bank building its housed in, built in 1923. Owned by Chicago artist Theaster Gates, the bank was reopened in 2015 after being shuttered for decades. It’s described as “a hybrid gallery, media archive, library and community center – and a home for Rebuild Foundation’s archives and collections.”

(Credit: Chicago Architecture Center)

It’s not often you see castles outside pastoral landscapes, but there’s on in Chicago, the Givens Castle, that’ll be open so you can see what it’s like to be in a fairy tale setting. It’s the home to the Beverly Unitarian Church.

Once a sprawling ballroom that hosted the likes of Nat King Cole and countless other musical luminaries, the Forum is working its way back to a glorious comeback after spending years in decline. It was built in 1897 and preservation efforts are underway to bring it back for a retail, community and music venue space.

The Streamline Moderne design of the First Church of Deliverance in Bronzeville is stunning from the outside. But inside, a bright cross covers the ceiling and illuminates an already colorful interior. Design fans will meet up with fans of gorgeous churches at this location.

(Credit: Chicago Architecture Center)