For me, living in Chicago, October is an awesome time. The trees are adorned in autumnal hues as the season change and the excitement of Halloween hangs in the air. I don’t have to start worrying about Thanksgiving travel or Christmas presents yet. It is a month of subdued electricity running through my veins as I celebrate the season before winter arrives. Also, it is the month of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago!
Since 2011, the second weekend of October is the most magical time of the year for Chicagoans. Put on by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Open House Chicago is an opportunity to see over 200 sites across the cities from as far south as Englewood all the way to Evanston. The appeal of these sites ranges from their architectural elements, historical significance, normal public exclusion, or for other unique treasures that you weren’t aware existed in this fair city.
It truly is my favorite time of the year and I’ve gone every year since its inception. Some years, I scramble to see as many sites as possible over the two days. Other years, I take my time and check out a few places. And with the variety of amazing places to check out, there are a lot of ways to have fun.
This year, I made an effort to venture out to Bridgeport and Back of the Yards which are neighborhoods I never go to. Like ever. Considering this was my eighth year in a row, it was time to break some new ground so to speak.
Due to the time it took to get to that area, I only saw a few locations. However, they were amazing. Zap Props was well worth the trip. Zap Props is a large prop rental warehouse that rents out props to film and television productions. They had thousands of knick-knacks and other items that are rented out regularly for productions, parties, and even restaurants. It was a flea market junkie’s dream. From there, I checked out other place such as the Chicago Maritime Museum, the ComEd training facility, a restored Roman Catholic church, and a Buddhist Temple.
On Sunday, I went north to Evanston to see the American Toby Jug museum. A Toby Jug is a large pouring vessel modeled after this British guy’s famed love for drinking. Since the late 1700s, the tradition of the Toby Jug has expanded from jugs modeled after the guy to jugs modeled after animals, world leaders, entertainers, and so on. It was such a strange collection to see and it was curious that it would be in Evanston of all places. Still, these are the kooky and fun things you may come across on your journey through Open House Chicago.
Open House Chicago appeals to all tastes. For me, I like weird and unique places. For others, you may be seriously interested in architecture. And if that is that case, you may have a deep appreciation for famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Living in Chicago, you’ll occasionally walk by homes designed by Wright. For Open House Chicago, some of his sites are even opened up for tours. The experience may not be as comical or bizarre as the Toby Jug Museum, but it is truly a great experience.
In honor of Open House Chicago, architecture, and Frank Lloyd Wright, the song to celebrate all of those things this week is Simon & Garfunkel’s “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright.” Released in 1970 and closing out the A-side of Bridge Over Troubled Water, “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” is a folk ballad tribute to the architect. Lamenting that architect may come and go, there are fond memories of laughing so long and harmonizing until dawn. In the duo’s signature style, Simon & Garfunkel bring a shade of curiosity, romanticism, and humor to the song.
Architecture, though admirable ad awe-inspiring in its craftmanship, is also something that can fun and alter your point of view. Open House Chicago does that for me in a city where I’m sometimes dulled by the familiar during my normal routine.