central standard building
Photograph: Eric Allix Rogers

The 20 best buildings to see during Open House Chicago 2023

We've picked the can't-miss structures to visit, in neighborhoods all across the city, during Open House Chicago.

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There's no bigger celebration of Chicago’s architectural diversity than the annual Open House Chicago. Happening on October 14 and 15, Open House Chicago 2023 grants locals and visitors inside access to more than 170 sites in over 20 neighborhoods. Whether you’re a fan of minimalist commercial architecture or in love with historic homes, the event always provides a captivating look at some of the city's most beautiful buildings. With over 40 new sites, this year’s program also includes many unique businesses (like one of Chicago's best breweries) and community organizations dedicated to elevating Chicago’s urban living experience. To explore all participating spots, download OHC’s mobile app. However, if 170+ sounds too intimidating, we’ve chosen 20 must-see places to give you a headstart.

What to see during Open House Chicago

If this is your first year going around during Open House Chicago weekend, the Central Standard Building needs to be at the top of your list. Plus, this place never gets old for architecture lovers, and you’ll always discover something new. 

Standing across the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Central Standard Building is an icon for neoclassical and Gothic Revival architecture, with a touch of Art Deco. The building recently restored the massive 88,000-square-foot grand banking hall on the second floor as Wintrust's Grand Banking Hall.

Opening hours: Oct. 14-15 from 10am-5pm

It's difficult to find a church more stunning than First United in Chicago. This 568-foot-tall skyscraper is a Neo-Gothic monument to the Methodists’ commitment to the Loop, standing against the pressure to move to the suburbs. Visitors can walk through the lobby and the Sanctuary during this year's Open House Chicago, admiring the church's massive stained glass windows and stone carvings. A virtual tour of the Sky Chapel on the top floor will also be available.

Opening hours: Oct. 14 from 10am-3pm, Oct. 15 from 1pm-4pm

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Attention, historic home nerds! If you love Prairie-style homes, you cannot miss the Colvin House tour this year. This American Foursquare mansion has been repurposed into an event and creative coworking space.

Take a stroll through the house, explore over-the-top plaster ornamentation from the 1920s and admire the giant chandelier above the stairway. You will also notice ornaments the residents added later, including the stucco wall coverings, the crown mouldings and the plaster angels in the corner of the Parlor.

Opening hours: Oct. 15 from 11am-5pm

Architecture documents history and tells the story of our predecessors. If you want to learn the stories behind familiar neighborhoods, add Edgewater History Museum to your Open House Chicago itinerary.

Located inside a restored Chicago firehouse half a block away from the popular Andersonville commercial district, the museum tells the story of how Swedish, German and Luxembourger farmers developed the Edgewater community and how it recovered from urban decay in the 1970s and 1980s through models, photographs and historical documents.

Opening hours: Oct. 14-15 from 10am-5pm

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Take your Goth best friend to see this French Gothic architecture masterpiece! Known for its 120-foot-high open bell tower, the St. Ita Roman Catholic Church is unquestionably a Chicago landmark. The church was built from 1,800 tons of Bedford limestone, with elegant, airy and delicate Gothic detailing carved across the building. The medallion windows designed by Schlacks are a must-see, as they contain 200,000 pieces of stained glass.

Opening hours: Oct. 14 from 10am-2:30pm, Oct. 15 from 2pm-5pm

Designed by Peter Camburas, Assumption Greek Orthodox Church’s copper-patina dome can be easily spotted from the Eisenhower Expressway. The church carries a mixture of Western and Eastern Christian traditions inside. Visitors can be mesmerized by the classical Byzantine stained glass windows from the 1950s or look through the iconostasis redone in the 1990s. Remember also to explore additional icons located in the lower-level St. Katherine Chapel.

Opening hours: Oct. 14 from 10am-5pm, Oct. 15 from 1pm-4pm

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Need a midday break from your Open House adventure? Stop by Ravinia Brewing in Avondale to check another site off your list and grab a good drink. Located in the former Maplewood station, Ravina salvaged the classic Brunswick Triple Arch bar in 2019 and brought it back home to Chicago from Wisconsin.The space is also a treat in itself with shipyard references and rustic interiors. Sit on the swing seats and enjoy a homemade brew, or chill with a few friends on the patio as you plan your route for the rest of the day!

Opening hours: Oct. 14-15 from 11am-5pm

Built between 1874 and 1877, the Ingersoll-Blackwelder house is one of the oldest historic homes in the Beverly/Morgan Park neighborhoods. The house greets its visitors with a magnificent Queen Ann style front and seamlessly transitions into an intricate Victorian main level. However, the best-kept secret of Ingersoll-Blackwelder House is the second floor, a rustic-filled art studio belonging to longtime owner Jack Simmerling. The house is also only two blocks away from the historic Morgan Park train station. 

Opening hours: Oct. 14-15 from 10am-5pm

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South Side Community Art Center is an architectural and cultural landmark in the heart of Bronzeville. Founded in 1940, it is the oldest Black American art center in the United States. The art center has a mission to conserve, preserve and promote the legacy and future of Black American art and artists.

During this year’s Open House Chicago, visitors can go on a self-guided tour through the art center’s collection and view the film Tracing Our Path Through Bronzeville by Reginald Rice. Don’t forget to take a photo of the iconic front entrance boasting classic Greek elements.

Opening hours: Oct. 14 from 10am-5pm

Bourdeau Griffin Design Center is the result of designer and artist couple Frantzie Bourdeau-Griffin and Gerald Griffin. The once deteriorating 46,000-square-foot Chatham warehouse is now a creative hub with a showroom, art gallery, classrooms and event space.

If you’ve had enough vintage and classic architecture, come to Bourdeau Griffin for a breath of contemporary beauty. Here, you will find Bourdeau-Griffin’s line of luxury interiors, including kitchen, bath, lighting, floor coverings and furniture. The gallery houses Griffin’s artwork about race, ethnicity and past societal attitudes.

Opening hours: Oct. 14-15 from 10am-5pm

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Avalon Regal Theater is one of the last places in Chicago to indulge in Moorish Revival designs. Adopted by architects in the wake of Romanticist Orientalism, Moorish Revival, or neo-Moorish architecture, is known for its articulated decorative ornament drawn from historical sources, including Islamic architecture.

During Open House Chicago weekend, guests will have the opportunity to tour the theater’s 2,500-seat auditorium full of elements referring to Islamic temples and the extravagant main lobby with intricate carvings, archways, accents and mouldings. There will also be QR codes to provide visitors with more information on the theater’s history and its surrounding communities.

Opening hours: Oct. 14-15 from 10am-5pm

An ongoing discussion regarding urban agriculture and sustainable urban planning has been going on between Chicago architects, community leaders and organizations for a while now. If you’re curious about how our neighborhoods can function as self-sufficient units, come to Herban Produce during this year’s Open House Chicago. This two-acre production farm is one of the most diverse and specialized farms in the city. The farm partners with other local farmers and emerging food producers to give the public direct access to the farmer’s market. During the weekend, visitors will gain full access to the farm. Farmers and designers will also be present on site to answer questions.

Opening hours: Oct. 14-15 from 10am-2pm

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The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture found its home in Humboldt Park's 1896 stables building. Known for its steep pitched roofs and wooden ornamental details, the red brick stables are a nod to old German country house architecture. Currently, the museum has three exhibitions on view exploring Puerto Rican garment, culture and history.

Opening hours: Oct. 14-15 from 10am-2pm

KAM Isaiah Israel is the oldest Jewish congregation in the Midwest. The synagogue’s architecture took inspiration from Byzantine structures and an ancient synagogue in Tiberias, Israel. You will also find a modern chapel built in midcentury style.

In addition to the mindblowing intricacies at every turn inside the sanctuary, visitors can also learn about KAM’s history in community engagement and hunger elimination—an interfaith food justice program founded by the congregation in 2009 continues to grow thousands of pounds of food for those in need on Chicago's South Side.

Opening hours: Oct. 14 from noon-5pm, Oct. 15 from 10am-5pm

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Those interested in minimalistic modern design should add 800 Fulton to their visiting list. Its steel-and-brick structure resonates with the industrial history carried by the Fulton Market district, with steel cross-braces showcasing SOM’s trademark structural expressionism.

Furthermore, the new office building meets the nation’s highest standard for commercial office indoor air quality with fresh air intake on each floor, abundant green space and common outdoor decks. It's the perfect illustration of a sustainable modern skyscraper.

Opening hours: Oct. 14 from 10am-4pm

Starshaped Press is a well-kept secret among Chicago’s book lovers and printmakers as it's one of the only places in Chicago to take a closer look at 80- to 100-year-old printing presses. This letterpress and design studio is located inside the Moderne-style Bulldog Lock Co. Building. Continuing the print district’s tradition, Starshaped Press focuses on printed works created with 19th and 20th century antique metal and wood types. During Open House Chicago weekend, a working press will be set up and running to showcase the printing process. Guests can also take home a souvenir print.

Opening hours: Oct. 14-15 from 10am-5pm

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Working Bikes, housed in an early 1900s former borax factory, is known to be a veritable bike museum with thousands of vintage bikes of unusual sizes, makes and models. You will even find pedal-powered contraptions with curious functions like water pumping and record playing.

Working Bikes also sell refurbished bikes they receive as donations at affordable prices to local community members in need. They ship these bikes to other countries that may need affordable bikes as transportation. During Open House Chicago weekend, guests can tour all three levels of Working Bikes, even the beehives on the rooftop!

Opening hours: Oct. 14 from 11am-5pm

Alliance Française de Chicago features architecture where modernity and classical influences coexist. On one side, we see the impressive greystone of Italian Row Homes built after the Great Chicago Fire. On the other side, linked through a courtyard, is a steel-and-glass addition inspired by the 1930s Modernist Maison de Verre in Paris. Founded in 1897, the Alliance is Chicago’s French cultural hub bridging between Americans and French-speaking populations. The Alliance will offer 30-minute tours allowing 15 to 20 people at a time during Open House Chicago.

Opening hours: Oct. 14 from 10am-5pm

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Situated inside the historic Motor Row District, South Asia Institute is a registered landmark built in the Second Empire style. The Institute tells the cultural narrative of South Asia and its diaspora through curated exhibitions, innovative programs and educational initiatives. Now is the best time to visit South Asia Institute as the terracotta façade has finally been restored. Guests can also explore the newly renovated interior with fresh exhibitions.

Opening hours: Oct. 14 from 11am-5pm

The Buddhist Temple of Chicago was originally established in Hyde Park in 1944 to provide support and spiritual sanctuary for Japanese-Americans relieved from internment camps, and later moved to its current site in Uptown. The temple features a minimalistic interior and a timber roof on radiating trusses. Inside, visitors can find a breathtaking Amida Buddha altar with incredible details and a series of hand-carved depictions of Buddha’s life. 

The Temple will offer a guided tour covering its architecture, Japanese-American history and Buddhist art and ornaments for this year’s Open House Chicago.

Opening hours: Oct. 14 from noon-5pm, Oct. 15 from 10am-5pm

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