“It’s really a way to reintroduce the city to its own residents,” says OHC managing director Bastiaan Bouma. The sites, which include both obscure gems and beloved landmarks, are concentrated in Bronzeville, Garfield Park, Little Village and Rogers Park, as well as downtown. (A free trolley circulates among each neighborhood’s attractions.)
OHC has two inspirations: the international Open House movement, which began in London in 1992, and the Great Chicago Places and Spaces program, which the former Mayor’s Office of Special Events ran in cooperation with the CAF until 2009. “OHC will be an order of magnitude bigger [than GCPS],” Bouma says. He expects about 50,000 people to participate in the mostly self-guided tours. Here’s a sneak preview of six of OHC’s most intriguing sites:
Christy Webber Landscapes (2900 W Ferdinand St). Christy Webber is best known for its plantings in Millennium Park. The firm’s LEED Platinum–certified headquarters in the West Side “eco-industrial park” Rancho Verde is part of OHC’s Green Trail, which Bouma describes as “a collection of sites connected by their leadership in sustainable design.” Guests can take a behind-the-scenes look at the complex’s planting areas, machinery and green roof.
Del Prado Apartments (5307 S Hyde Park Blvd). Built in 1918, the former Cooper-Carlton Hotel is notable for its gorgeous but un-PC Native American iconography (pictured). Studio Gang Architects is overhauling the building’s rental apartments.
Downtown Islamic Center (231 S State St, fourth floor). High above the bustle of State Street, the DIC, which was founded in 1976, offers Muslims who work or live downtown a place to worship. Visitors can view the center’s skylit prayer rooms.
Emil Bach House (7415 N Sheridan Rd). Frank Lloyd Wright completed this late Prairie-style stunner in 1915. According to Bouma, the Rogers Park home is being restored by billionaire owner James Pritzker’s Tawani Foundation.
Fisher Building (343 S Dearborn St). Daniel Burnham’s chief designer, Charles Atwood, was the driving force behind this 18-story 1896 landmark. The Fisher Building now houses rental apartments; OHC provides access to a floor maintained to recall the structure’s historic heyday as an office tower.
Little Black Pearl Art & Design Center (1060 E 47th St, 773-285-1211). Little Black Pearl in Kenwood hosts art, dance and computer classes for kids and adults in a gorgeous 40,000-square-foot space. The public can tour the South Side nonprofit’s studios, where students learn glassblowing, metalworking and more.