Hundreds visit historic Northwestern buildings as part of Open House Chicago


Daily file photo by Jerry Lee

Deering Library was one of three sites on the Northwestern campus featured in the Open House Chicago program. The Open House Chicago program took place from Oct. 17 to Oct. 18.

Fathma Rahman, Reporter

For the first time, three historical buildings on Northwestern’s Evanston campus were included in the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago program this weekend.

Alice Millar Chapel, Dearborn Observatory and Deering Library were among the 200 buildings open to the public during specific hours for visitors to enjoy free, behind-the-scenes access. Coinciding with Homecoming weekend, the event was well-attended, University Chaplain Timothy Stevens said.

“They approached us last spring and said that they were thinking to add Evanston venues,” Stevens said. “We considered not doing it because it’s also Homecoming weekend, but we decided to do it anyway. Homecoming weekend turned out to be a good weekend for it, because there were a lot of people coming in after the game — a lot of people wearing Iowa sweatshirts, but also a lot of purple sweatshirts too.”

In recent years, the University has been trying to increase its outreach into the Evanston community as well as deepen its relationship with the Chicago area, which is visible in different kinds of marketing, from sports to academics, said Drew Scott, University Library communications specialist.

“We’ve watched Open House Chicago from afar for a while, and we’ve always thought Evanston has loads of interesting offerings, so it’s great to be added this year,” Scott said. “It’s been healthy for us as a university to get people excited about the architecture and the services and education we’re offering inside this building. I didn’t expect it to have much of a ripple, but this place has been bustling all day,”

NU’s locations had hundreds of visitors pass through its doors on both days this weekend, Scott and Stevens said. Evanston residents Marge and Neil Gambow had the unique opportunity to experience Open House Chicago from both the perspectives of visitors and tour guides.

Having spent Saturday at their respective locations welcoming visitors to other sites included in Open House Chicago, the Gambows spent Sunday visiting the Sigma Alpha Epsilon building, as well as the three NU locations.

“We’re going to all these places that are usually not open to the public,” Marge Gambow said. “You go by the buildings all the time, but this is what is really inside the building. It’s like (the outside) is the shell but this is the heart of the building.”

With Dearborn Observatory leading in age as a 126-year-old site, Deering Library follows at more than 80 years old, trailed by Alice Millar Chapel at more than 50 years old. Each building’s distinct history and architecture adds to its relevance as part of Open House Chicago.

“It all reminds you how old this university really is and how much history is maintained amongst all these walls,” Neil Gambow said.

The University has made no promises or commitments about future involvement with Open House Chicago, but Stevens said he was optimistic about the future.

“When this is over, and they tell us this is great as we’ve had a lot of people coming through, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do it again next year,” Stevens said. “Whether it’s going to be on Homecoming weekend or not, I have no idea, but I would be very open to doing it again.”

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