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‘Explore like a local’ — Open House Chicago returns in person this weekend

While favorites like The Forum in Bronzeville will make a return visit, The OHC app brings new self-guided walking tours to this year’s event.

Open House Chicago will feature a host of new and old sites to see this weekend. The Forum, located at 324 E. 43rd St. in Bronzeville, is making a return as a city-favorite this year.
Open House Chicago will feature a host of new and old sites to see this weekend. The Forum, at 324 E. 43rd St. in Bronzeville, is making a return as a city-favorite this year.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Put on your walking shoes and get ready to travel around the city this weekend because Open House Chicago is back in person this year.

The annual event, hosted by the Chicago Architecture Center, features more than 100 sites spread across 30 city neighborhoods, as well as some suburbs, including Oak Park and the North Shore.

While last year’s open house was virtual, this year historical buildings, repurposed spaces and renovated halls will again be open to the public Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days.

“The big thing of the weekend is always architecture,” said Hallie Rosen, director of program operations for the architecture center and head of Open House Chicago 2021. “But I think now the theme is really exploring Chicago’s neighborhoods — not only thinking about architecture but thinking in terms of historical context and even cultural contexts.”

Even though things are back in person this year, masks will be required at all indoor locations.

Visitors can start their weekend on the Far Southwest Side’s Beverly-Morgan Park area, site of Chicago’s only castle.

Beverly’s Givins Castle was built as a gift to owner Robert C. Givins’ wife and in the hopes of bringing residential growth near the Rock Island Line, according to CAC,
Beverly’s Givins Castle was built as a gift to owner Robert C. Givins’ wife and in the hopes of bringing residential growth near the Rock Island Line, according to the Chicago Architecture Center.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The Givins Castle, known to neighbors as the “Irish Castle,” at 10255 S. Seeley Ave. was built in 1887 for Robert C. Givins’ wife. Cost? $80,000.

The castle, now home to the Beverly Unitarian Church, is open all day Saturday.

For a more modern feel, head over to The Plant, 1400 W. 46th St. This Back of the Yards research building is home to 20 food businesses. Indoor and outdoor farms, beer and kombucha breweries and a bread bakery are some of the businesses inside this former meatpacking plant.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, food production spaces normally closed to the public will be open, and food and drinks made and grown at The Plant will be available for purchase.

This 100,000-square-foot former meatpacking plant in Back of the Yards is home to 20 small food businesses.
This 100,000-square-foot former meatpacking plant in Back of the Yards is home to 20 small food businesses.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

But it wouldn’t be Open House Chicago without the return of some favorites, like The Forum in Bronzeville.

According to architecture center, the red brick building at 324 E. 43rd St. is Bronzeville’s oldest assembly hall. It was built by and for Black Americans in 1897 and became an epicenter of the Black Metropolis.

“It survived what I call the ‘Dark Days of Bronzeville’, where much of Bronzeville’s commercial life shut down because we’d lost so much of our population and because of all the disinvestment and the lows that affect our community,” said Bernard Loyd, president of Urban Juncture, the building’s owner.

Loyd said renovations continue; since last year’s Open House, the two main roofs have been replaced and work now is underway on windows and the halls.

On Saturday and Sunday, visitors can see what Loyd called the most “iconic” part of the building: Forum Hall.

“It’s just a space that reeks with history,” he said. “When you walk in, you can feel the layers of history. ... Everything from Nat King Cole playing on that stage, major civil rights activities in the space, dances over the decades — all of that has happened in the hall.”

The Chicago State University Marching Band is playing at the Forum Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 pm.

The interior of The Forum at 324 E. 43rd St in Bronzeville, photographed on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021.
The interior of The Forum, 324 E. 43rd St. in Bronzeville. “It’s just a space that reeks with history,” said Bernard Loyd, president of Urban Juncture, which owns the building.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

While in Bronzeville, visitors can also use the Open House Chicago mobile app to take self-guided tours. Self-guided paths can be found in Chinatown, Logan Square and Oak Park, as well.

The app, which launched last year, has become an integral part of this year’s event, Rosen said.

“We have less sites than we’ve had in the past, but there’s actually much more to do in a neighborhood once you get there,” she said. “You can visit a site — or two — and then you could go do a self-guided tour in that neighborhood. If you get hungry or you’re thinking ‘What else can I do?’ we also have another section on the app that’s called ‘Explore like a local.’”

New sites at this year’s events include The Penthouse in Hyde Park and the Pullman National Monument Visitor Information Center, which opened in September.

New self-guided tours through the app include “Obamas in Hyde Park,” which takes visitors through where the Obamas lived in the Kenwood-Hyde Park area, and a Great Chicago Fire tour recognizing the fire’s 150th anniversary.

Chicagoans can continue to use the app after this weekend to find more Chicago Architecture Center virtual events all month, such as Tuesday’s “In Case You Missed It: New Buildings From Our Pandemic Year.”

A full list of sites, self-guided tours and upcoming events can be found at openhousechicago.org/sites/.