I remember in years past I would rush around during the weekend of Open House Chicago trying to see as much as I possibly could. 2012, 2013, and 2016 stand out as being crazy and stressful. Even when it was raining and I had other people with me. And why? Shouldn’t this event be fun and educational for architecture geeks? That was made worse when I’d work at a site, specifically my house museum, which limited to how much time was available to see other buildings (basically I lost one of the days). But since the pandemic, I’m not as adventurous as I used to be, and now just go with the flow. So here are some of the places I visited last weekend (plus a post from two years ago if you’re interested about some of my all-time OHC favorites).
Maybe because I went to a Catholic high school, the idea of going to Fraternité Notre-Dame, home to a traditional French Catholic order, in Austin intrigued me (while also making me feel anxious at the same time…maybe it’s a combo of Catholic guilt and PTSD). Unfortunately, there was a Latin mass going on when I got there just after 10 a.m. so I sat on a bench in the back and tried to stay out of the way. But a nun noticed my presence and gave me a mantilla to wear. I didn’t stay much longer, so I didn’t get a guided tour. Plus I didn’t get a closer look of the murals painted by the sisters.
I’m always looking to go inside places I’ve never visited before so checking the map I thought “Hey, let’s stop at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture!” I enjoyed seeing the art and fashion exhibits but I must admit I was really there for the architecture. Originally the Humboldt Park Stables (designed by architects Fromann & Jebsen and constructed between 1895-96), I had heard that landscape architect extraordinaire Jens Jensen, who lived in a number of residences located nearby, worked inside the stables. His office has been recreated inside the first-floor turret of the building overlooking the park. During a Highland Park house walk in 2009, I had the chance to go inside Jensen’s house and studio where he lived after his retirement from the Chicago Park System. I guess this was a full circle moment or something.
Though this week marked the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney founding the Disney Company, I wasn’t willing to stand in line for a long Disney ride. Or in this case the Disney Birthplace in Hermosa. Walt’s father Elias bought the lot at the corner of Palmer and Tripp in 1891 while his mother Flora drew up architectural plans for the simple farmhouse. Elias was a carpenter so he built the family home himself. It’s nice that new owners are restoring the property back to its original condition (over three decades after it was nearly lost to demolition). But after seeing the line wrap around the entire block all the way to Kildare, I was like “Sorry…maybe next year!”
I remember during Open House Chicago 2013 going into a lakefront apartment in South Shore. I got that same vibe while visiting a loft in the Logan Square area on Saint Georges Court, one of those streets in Chicago that is only a block long. The Sulzen Art Studio is located inside a 120-year-old building that once housed the Wold Airbrush Factory, a company credited with the invention of the modern airbrush. Today it’s a live-work space for an artist couple who’ve been here for over 20 years. Even though I didn’t know about it before my visit, their residence can easily be seen from the elevated train tracks that runs just north of the historic structure. I saw a few other sites but I think I’m going to wrap it up. If you’ve never been to Open House Chicago before, I suggest you put next year’s event on your calendar now. It’s a great opportunity to visit buildings all over the city, taking in the history and enjoying magnificent views. Don’t feel overwhelmed. Just see what interests you. Until 2024!