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Chicago Like a Local Blog

Unique perspectives on the city from the people who live here.

Category - Architecture/History

It’s curious to think that in the mid-19th century, the Union Stock Yard Gate once was the last thing that millions of animals saw as they were led to their slaughter for use as meat products and various other sundry goods. Today, visitors to this city landmark will only encounter rumbling trucks belonging to nearby companies such as the Royal Envelope Corporation, Aramark Uniform Services and the Superior Nut & Candy Company.

Chicago is filled with hidden history. From a cemetery concealed beneath the lovely green fields of Lincoln Park to a ghostly guest at a settlement house, some of our city's most historic sites have an untold, eerie side too. October is one of the best times of the year to visit these three (allegedly) haunted, yet history filled places. 

Chicago is the fabled city of big shoulders, big buildings and with a renowned foodie scene, big appetites. But at its core, this is really a city of neighborhoods and diverse ethnic communities. You can travel through dozens of countries and cultures of the world just by exploring Chicago neighborhoods and cultural institutions. The Chicago Cultural Alliance (CCA) serves as connector to 35 museums and cultural organizations representing 24 different neighborhoods and 28 different ethnic communities. Forget about airfare, you can discover China, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Ukraine all in a few days in Chicago.

Once a year, Chicago's closed-to-the-public architectural gems open their doors wide to welcome visitors from near and far. If you've ever dreamed of going behind-the-scenes, inside a Chicago masterpiece, you won't want to miss Open House Chicago, hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. This free, two-day public event, held this year on October 14 and 15, offers access to our city's exclusive, magnificent mansions, skyscrapers, theaters, private clubs, industrial facilities, private offices and sacred spaces. While the open sites can be discovered in just about every neighborhood in the city, this year marks the first time that the Northwest Side neighborhood of Logan Square/Avondale will be joining the mix.

Even the most die-hard urbanologist could never possibly visit all of Chicago’s distinguished buildings in two, three, or four lifetimes. It would be a formidable task, indeed. Fortunately, there is a weekend of great repute that happens to afford wonderful access to over 200 buildings that would make any student of architecture envious.

The weather is cooler, but the #ChicagoLeafPeeping is prime. As autumn wraps the city in reds and golds, it's the perfect time to check out the harvest festivals and Oktoberfests that are popping up around town. As we cruise into a new month, take a moment to check out the biggest events happening in October, and make some time for these weekend picks (that is, if you don't stay out too late at these bars that keep the party going past last call). 

What makes a great public transit facility, you ask? I'd say it is a well-lit space to wait for the next train, combined with compelling architecture, public art, and easy access for people with physical handicaps.

Such a station now graces the eastern side of the Loop 'L' trains, as the stunning Washington/Wabash Station opened for use by visitors and Chicagoans on August 31, 2017. It’s the first new station in the Loop since 1997, and rave reviews continue to come in from architectural magazines, transit wonks, and a range of other outlets.

As we continue to support Chicago's Year of Public Art, I thought of Chicago's Fabulous Fountains, which happens to be a new book by local author Greg Borzo. Greg has written about a vast range of Windy City topics over the years, and he's one of the go-to experts when people want thoughtful commentary on such matters. I reached out to Greg to ask him a few questions about his favorite fountains and how these unique objects contribute to Chicago's public art landscape. 

The largest architecture and design exhibition in North America returns to Chicago on September 16, with the second edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Over 141 designers and architects representing 20 countries will address the theme "Make New History," by presenting drawings, installations, events and "immersive environments" at the Chicago Cultural Center and six off-site community locations. The main biennial at the Cultural Center is FREE and open to the public through January 7, 2018.

Check out a few of the highlights of this dazzling showcase of new perspectives, images, buildings and plans.

The design competition for the Chicago Tribune Tower was one of the most celebrated international architectural competitions of the 20th century. On June 10, 1922, the Chicago Tribune announced that they entries would be welcome from anywhere in the world. The prize? $50,000. Over the coming months, they received over 260 entries. In the end, the winning entry was a formidable design proffered by John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood.

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