Hey remember way back in October when we went to Chicago for a long weekend? Yeah, me neither. A bunch of other stuff happened right after that and I totally forgot. But I found the pictures on my computer this weekend and realized I hadn't told you about all the awesome stuff we saw and did.
By some amazing coincidence, the weekend we were there was the second annual Open House Chicago, which is "a free public event that offers behind-the-scenes access to over 150 buildings across Chicago." It was AMAZING. We got to see inside churches, buildings, and even private homes that we had walked past and wondered about for years. With only 48 hours (and a wedding thrown in the mix!) we decided to get an early start each day and see as much as we possibly could.
We started in South Loop, which is where we were staying (in an apartment rented off Air BnB, which was such a steal!). En route to the first stop we walked by our old apartment building. Awwww. I waved to the third floor where we first lived together back in 2010.
We were the first people in the door at the Wheeler Mansion, which a few years ago was rescued from the brink of destruction and painstakingly restored. It's now a bed and breakfast (with pretty reasonable rates). The woman who owns it said when she first bought it the roof was caving in, and there were drug addicts and rats on all three floors and in the basement. I cannot imagine how much work it must have been to make it into the beautiful house it is today.
Then we went to the Second Presbyterian Church at 20th and Michigan Avenue. The First Presbyterian Church was destroyed in a fire and the wealthy residents of South Loop decided to raise funds and build an even grander Second Presbyterian. The stained glass windows were out of this world.
Next up was the Fisher Building, which houses offices in addition to private apartments. I took this photo from a 10th floor apartment. These are the gargowls that guard the Harold Washington branch of the Chicago Public Library. It was an ominous-looking day.
We headed up town to the Monroe Building, which was just newly restored and open to the public. They had consulted old photos and archives to get the tiling in the lobby and on the main floors just right. In these photos they had seen beautiful wrought iron work encasing the elevators, and when they tore away decades-old drywall it was still there. Can you imagine covering that up with beige plaster?
After that we took a break and went to Macy's (which used to be the famous Marshall Field's) on State Street for lunch. As strange as it sounds, that Macy's is kind of our happy place. It's one block from where D lived when we met, they have a great food court on the seventh floor, and with six floors of merchandise you can find almost anything you want. They're even connected to the Pedway (an underground series of pedestrian tunnels) so you don't have to go outside during bad weather to get the El! They also have a hand-tiled mosaic ceiling designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, which isn't something that every mall can boast.
Feeling invigorated after a brief lunch break we braved the rain some more to get to the Chicago Motor Club in Wacker Tower. This is a great example of a building I'd walked by dozens of times and wondered what it's story was. Apparently the building was constructed as a temple to the automobile during the rise of the auto industry and has a twenty-nine foot wide mural of popular road destinations on the wall of the lobby. It is one of Chicago's best examples of an Art Deco-style skyscraper. The interior was just incredible--so many beautiful original Art Deco features. Unfortunately it has sat empty and falling apart for several years. It's for sale, but needs so much work that buying and restoring it would be quite an undertaking. Here's one of the spiral staircases that was beautifully and heartbreakingly falling apart.
If I lived in Chicago and had billions of dollars to throw away, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.
When I worked at the Newberry Library, I used to walk past the Driehaus Museum every day on my way to work. I always wondered what was inside and intended to visit but never got around to it. I'm so, so glad we made this a stop on our whirlwind tour. It used to be a private residence and was one of the most intensely decorated houses I've ever seen. Every inch of the place was dripping with marble, stained glass, carved wood, and tiled mosaics. Definitely worth a visit if you're ever in the River North neighborhood.
When D and I lived in Chicago we had an inside joke about the Drake Hotel, so when we saw that it was a stop on the tour we knew we had to go. The hotel was a bustle of noise and confusion, and so we wandered around several floors in a daze looking for the tour stop. We happened upon this gorgeous ballroom, which had an entire bar filled with flower arrangements from the night before. A wedding, perhaps? What had to have been hundreds (thousands?) of flowers just left there in this open, brightly lit, completely empty ballroom. We took a bunch of pictures before finally leaving to ask for directions to the tour stop.
The tour stop was the Cape Cod Restaurant in the basement of the hotel, which is where many famous Chicagoans used to eat. We were able to see the bar where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio carved their initials, and learned about the private room where politicians had dined.
Then we headed even further north to the International Museum of Surgical Sciences (all on foot, I might add. I'm beginning to realize how I might have injured myself in this weekend. We practically walked a marathon in addition to much rowdy dancing at the wedding itself). This was yet another place I had intended to visit but never quite made it to when we lived in Chicago. It was...interesting. This old examining chair was one of the more tame exhibits. We didn't linger for too long here before heading to our next destination.
Which was the Madlener House in Gold Coast (one of the toniest neighborhoods in Chicago proper). It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, who is so popular in the midwest. While he's not my favorite architect, I'm warming to old Frank. I get it.
I'm so, so grateful that the Chicago Architecture Foundation hosts this annual event and that we happened to be in town to take advantage of it. If you live in Chicago, don't miss it, and if you don't live in Chicago it would be the perfect excuse for a weekend getaway to one of the coolest cities in America.