Open House Chicago is an annual event – on a weekend in mid-October, about 250 buildings in the Chicago area are open to visitors. Each has a few volunteers who can tell you about the building. It is sometimes called the “architecture tour” because many of these buildings were built 100+ years ago and some were designed by well-known architects.
Chicago is known for its diverse architectural styles. It is impossible to visit all the buildings during the Open House weekend, and especially if you only dedicate a few hours to seeing them. I had wanted to go downtown, but Saturday was unseasonably cold, so we chose an area that we could easily drive to and find parking near the various sites. Another priority was to get into buildings that are rarely open to the public.
We saw three sites on the Far North Side of Chicago. The first of these was a rarely-open old mansion, called the Gunder House at the Berger Park Cultural Center, 6219 N. Sheridan Road, in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago. This was a booming, affluent neighborhood in the early 1900s until after World War II.
This house was designed by Myron H. Church in the Classic Revival style and was completed in 1910. It was built for Samuel and Nettie Gunder, who paid $20,000 for it!
Like many of these historically significant buildings, there were many interesting details in the design as well as interesting doors and windows. I am going to blog about each of the sites, but this first post of OHC 2018 incorporates two photo challenges: Norm’s Thursday Doors and Nancy’s Photo a Week Through Glass.
We easily found street parking and headed for the front door, with the official OHC 2018 sign out front.
Same door, from the inside
Many of these big, old houses had several fireplaces, often beautifully decorated.
The Viatorian order of Catholic priests owned the Gunder House and neighboring mansion to house student priests for 30 years. In 1945, the coach houses were converted to dormitories.
When they moved, the priests sold the mansions to the Chicago Park District in 1981 for half the price of offers from developers.
The ornamentation is based on the style of the Italian Renaissance.
Most of the rooms were nearly bare of furniture.
The design of the house reflects an early 20th century taste for historic-revival houses based on Classicism.
The Park District had plans to demolish the house, but the community rallied to save it. It was restored, then used by a non-profit cultural center from 1987 to 2012.
Currently the mansion is in disrepair. The Chicago Park District is renovating it with supplementary funds raised by Berger Park Advisory Council volunteers.
The Advisory Council hopes to generate public interest in the mansion’s use for community activities.
Having finished our tour of the first floor, we went out back to see the park’s children’s play area and view of Lake Michigan.