Open House Chicago to feature 16 Evanston architectural treasures


Daily file photo from Colin Boyle

Alice Millar Chapel. The chapel is one of this year’s Open House Chicago sites.

Ahlaam Moledina, Reporter

The annual Open House Chicago, hosted by the Chicago Architecture Center, will feature 16 Evanston sites, including three Northwestern buildings.

Open House Chicago opens the doors to the city’s most celebrated architectural spaces, as well as some hidden treasures, said Eric Rogers, manager for Open House Chicago and community outreach with the Chicago Architecture Center. The festival will run from from Oct. 19 to Oct. 20, free of charge. This year will feature over 350 buildings in Chicago and its suburbs, which reflect the area’s history and cultural diversity.

“The main focus is to get people who live here to explore their own city and explore sites that are architecturally, culturally or historically significant,” Rogers said. “It’s a feel-good event: you learn something new, see something you’ve never seen before and get excited.”

In 2018, around 100,000 people visited different locations, totalling about 366,000 distinct site visits.

According to the Open House Chicago exit survey, about 60 percent of visitors went to neighborhoods they’ve never before visited, Rogers said.

“(Open House Chicago) breaks down barriers,” Rogers said, “and lets people go to places they’ve only heard about in the news, sometimes just for bad reasons.”

Open House Chicago also works with community partners in Evanston to expand the festival. These partners, including Downtown Evanston, Design Evanston and Chicago’s North Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau, recruit new sites, volunteers and financial sponsorship. Northwestern is also a community partner for the festival — with the Alice Millar Chapel, Dearborn Observatory and Charles Deering Library as sites for the open house.

One of the Evanston sites is the American Toby Jug Museum, which has participated in Open House Chicago for years, said museum curator Kevin Pearson.

“(Chicago Open House) is beneficial to Evanston,” Pearson said. “It leads to greater exposure of Evanston’s more hidden treasures. We get bigger numbers — we’re expecting a few hundred this weekend.”

The American Toby Jug Museum is the world’s largest private collection of Toby Jugs, pottery molded to resemble a person, with 8,000 pieces collected over 73 years.

The open house will also feature the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette with volunteer guides to talk about the history and architecture of the temple. Last year, it was one of the Chicago Architecture Center’s most visited sites, with 3,490 visitors over the weekend of the festival alone.

Joyce Litoff, communications specialist at the Bahá’í House of Worship, said she’s always surprised to see the number of people from the area who’ve never visited, but take the festival as an opportunity to do so.

“The temple is open to all people regardless of religious background or faith,” Litoff said. “Everyone can use the building for some quiet meditation or contemplation. It’s nice to see people who visit the building for the first time and are excited.”

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