Open House Chicago is one of those events that delights me to no end because I get to explore and learn and discover beauty I never knew was there. Hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation for one weekend in October (19 & 20 this year), 150 buildings and sites across the city are open for behind-the-scenes access. It’s free, and you can discover gems and see what’s behind walls you’ve walked by many times and never gave a second thought to.

Ideally, I’d love to spend the whole weekend wandering from one Open House Chicago site to the next, but alas, our weekends are busy family-wise, and so I have to be content with visiting a gem or two. Last year we peeked behind the doors of the Powhatan building in our neighborhood.

This year’s event cover photo, featuring the opulent interior of the Elks National Veterans Memorial, intrigued me immediately. I’m sure I’d seen the domed monument driving by before, but it is in a corner of Lincoln Park that I don’t frequent, so I simply didn’t know about it, nor did I know about the Order of the Elks who built this imposing memorial to honor the soldiers of World War I. I figured it would interest my younger son who’s a war buff, and so we went to investigate. Sadly, I had forgotten my DSLR camera, so I had to make do with my Smartphone…

This is what Open House Chicago is really like: Lots and lots of people mulling about (Here the entrance of the Elks Memorial seen from inside). While I don’t particularly like the crowds, I am thrilled that so many people take an interest in the city and its buildings.

The world’s coolest radiators (at least in my opinion). “Round” is definitely a theme in this building. I’m not sure if these radiators would be noticed during ordinary visiting hours as they are in a side corridor.

From another corridor alcove, round windows look out into the cleverly designed courtyard. I love, love, love, curved glass panels!

I loved these lamps made of stone (marble? alabaster?).
The reception hall features magnificent stained glass windows such as this one reflecting in the polished meeting table; you can also see just a bit of the ornate ceiling framing its arch. None of my photos of the ceiling are worthy of showcasing, but it drips with chandeliers, golden trims, wood paneling and murals. While I was certainly in awe of this almost baroque interior, I found all that décor too much; I personally prefer serene, spare settings, especially for meetings.

Outside, more roundness and a magnificent sky. We walked away happy at having discovered another fascinating place in our city, only to bump into another hidden jewel: The Brewster Apartment Building down the street from the Elks Memorial; I shall feature that within the next few days.