If you’ve ever walked by a building and wished you could explore it without risking a trespassing citation, Open House Chicago is for you. Every year, the Chicago Architecture Foundation throws the city-wide party that lets architecture nerds, history buffs, and simple creeps look behind typically locked doors. Over 200 sites around the city will be open this weekend, including banking institutions, logistics hubs, apartment blocks, and more.

There’s a little something for everyone and tons of higher quality click-bait than this listing the best spots to hit. But, I figure you don’t need to be told why the Chicago Board of Trade building is worth seeing. Instead, here are some of the more strange spots that might fall by the wayside in the calamity to get the highest view of downtown:

Yale Building – 6565 S. Yale (Englewood)


You might be surprised to learn that the best substitute to a New Orleans vacation is taking the 8 Bus to Englewood. Hiding off of Marquette Road, this 7-story condominium has exterior style could be described as Romanesque Revival, but its interior is something entirely unique. Bright colors, hanging vines, steel balconies, and interior courtyard brings to mind images of the iconic architecture of New Orleans’ French Quarter. 

Constructed in 1893, the Yale Building was originally luxury housing for visitors of the Chicago Columbian Exposition. In fact, it’s just blocks away from the location of the infamous H.H. Holmes Murder castle (now the site of the Englewood Post Office). It remained high-income housing until the early 20th century when it was gutted and converted to mid-market apartments. Towards the end of the century, the building was dilapidated and on the path towards destruction. Luckily, it was registered a landmark in 2003 and converted into subsidized housing – today it is inhabited mostly by about 74 seniors.

UIC Police Department – 943 W. Maxwell St. (University Village)

uicpolice-ericallixrogers-5.jpgThis is the perfect opportunity to check out this place by choice, versus after a weeknight bender. Constructed in 1888, the building is a well-preserved example of a classic Chicago neighborhood police station. Its iconic exterior is built of red pressed brick and Joliet limestone, with walls three feet thick at the base. If the station looks familiar to you, there’s a good chance you have a corny taste in TV. In addition to being the oldest running police station in the city, the building has been immortalized on cop dramas Chicago PD and Hill Street Blues.

While the UIC Police Department now patrols a relatively low-crime area made up largely of students and professionals, this wasn’t always the case. Before it was the UIC PD, this building was the 7th Distract Police Station – also known as “the Wickedest Police District in the World.” The 1.5 square mile area surrounding the station was termed “Bloody Maxwell” by the Chicago Tribune in 1906 for its violence and severe poverty. At it’s height, the precinct boasted over 200,000 residents, and more saloons and violence per capita than any other part of town.

2-11--Maxwell Station (L of C).jpg

Suspect in custody at Maxwell Street Police Station (Library of Congress)

The Tribune wrote, “Reveling in the freedom which comes from inadequate police control, inspired by the traditions of criminals that have gone before in the district, living in many instances more like beasts than like human beings, hundreds and thousands of boys and men follow day after day and year after year in the bloody ways of crime.”

CTA Control Center – 120 N. Racine Ave (West Loop)

cta-control-center-01.jpg1.64 million riders serviced and 381,180 miles of distance covered every day. These are not small numbers when it comes to transport logistics. CTA manages 1,888 buses and 1,492 rail cars around the clock, and the magic’s got to happen somewhere. Maybe I just hoped that somewhere would be a little more glamorous than this nondescript warehouse.

Capture.PNGThere weren’t any exterior images on Google, so this is the best you’re gonna get.

The exterior design very much reads, “Yes, this is a government building. No, you’re not allowed in here.” In fact, in many online articles, they intentionally leave out the control center address. Sorry, CTA, I guess Open House Chicago dropped the ball on that one.

“This is where we coordinate a lot of our service restoration, our emergency response, and just our day-to-day service that we provide,” says De La Cruz, CTA representative. From the West Loop Control Center, employees work 24 hours a day monitoring systems, handling crises, and dispatching relevant city employees. They’re trained to react to everything from snow on the tracks to a full-scale terrorist attack. A huge part of this effort is surveillance: each CTA station has 18-20 cameras, totaling 3600 across the city. There are many employees whose job it is to simply watch these cameras. So, next time you do something weird on CTA and wonder if anyone saw it, the answer is yes.


“They started seeing what I was buying at the auction houses, they’re looking at me like, ‘You’re crazy! That stuff won’t sell! It’s not antique!’ But I had my own vision.” Rawski says that he gets the majority of his stuff at garage sales and flea markets. If you recognize something here, you might not be crazy. Restaurants all over the city, including chains like Tilted Kilt, Giordano’s and Fuddruckers, have all bought Zap Props.

Zap Props is generally closed to the public, and requires a $45/hr fee to browse. So, make sure you check it out.

Open House Chicago is October 14-15. To see the rest of the 200+ sites, check out their website here.

2 thoughts on “The Weirdest Spots You Can’t Miss During Chicago Open House

  1. The Regal Theater was sadly scratched from this year’s OHC, at the last minute. 😦 Hopefully they are a site, for next year’s OHC.


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