An Open House Chicago walking tour to try



Glunz on Open House chicago tour (reno Lovison photo)
Glunz on Open House chicago tour (reno Lovison photo)

Open House Chicago is a great way to see some of the city’s landmarks and neighborhoods. The following Old Town / Gold Coast Open House Tour was taken by videographer/podcast editor Reno Lovison during Oct. 15-16 but it is specific enough to copy down and take anytime. )

You don’t need to be an architectural expert to simply look around and enjoy the various styles, building materials and artistic elements that combine to make up Chicago’s diverse urban landscape.

A perfect place to start observing is the Old Town / Gold Coast area where you can find an abundance of 19th century buildings, dating to the city’s early post Great Fire roots, side-by-side with modern, post-modern, late modern and millennium modern building examples.

Here in the heart of the city, you will easily find single family homes and multi-family structures ranging from two story brick and wood structures to over twenty story high glass and steel high-rises, as well as assorted commercial structures built for specific purposes as well as many that have been redeveloped to meet the changing needs of the city’s current inhabitants.

Open House Chicago  takes place every year in October featuring more than 150 locations in over twenty neighborhoods across Chicago and suburbs. During the weekend event, visitors are treated to special access and information provided by onsite experts, however there is no reason that you cannot tour these locations yourself at any time during the year.

The choices I made were made from a list that was part of the 2022 Open House Chicago Program. I also included a few stops that I knew of that I  spotted along the way. As a result my tour is not intended as a comprehensive look at the area but simply an opportunity to take note of some interesting gems that are lurking just under our noses on a daily basis.  

At roughly three miles total I began my self-guided walking tour in Old Town at the corner of Wells and Evergreen in front of the former Dr. Scholl’s factory aka Cobbler’s Square. There is a plaque on the south-east corner that provides a brief history of the original building. Walking south to Division Street you will find the House of Glunz Wine and Spirits, operated by the Glunz family for over 100 years, and one of the few remaining, largely untouched, late 19th century commercial storefronts in the area. 

An old building on Rush Street the Old Town-Gold Coast Chicago tour. (Photo by Reno Lovison)
An old building on Rush Street the Old Town-Gold Coast Chicago tour. (Photo by Reno Lovison)

Continuing south a few blocks you you will see the millennium era Walter Payton College Prep with its almost 80-foot-high glass and steel atrium joining two brick structures on either side. Compare that with the Ruben Salazar Bilingual Center directly across the street. This elementary school building was originally built in 1882 and provides an opportunity to compare the two structures while considering similarities and changes in attitudes regarding education over a one hundred year span.

I made my way east to the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts at the corner of Dearborn and Oak Streets. Jammed with interesting architectural features inside and out this former single-family residence was built circa 1870 and was converted to a boarding house before transforming to an artist’s work space and gallery in 1921.

From here I meandered over to Rush Street taking time to regard the remaining architectural shadows of the street’s not too distant past. 

Moving north, Rush Street changes its name to State Parkway entering into the heart of the Gold Coast. A quick dip inside the Ambassador Hotel provided a chance to catch the cool mid-century vibe of the former Pump Room, a famed night spot that entertained celebrities and legends though the nineteen forties, fifties and sixties.

While you’re still in the swinging mood, continue north to find the former Playboy Mansion on the west side of the next block before making your way a few blocks further to the Cardinal’s Residence at North Avenue opposite Lincoln Park. On your way you can speculate about the amount of wealth created caterinig to the needs of individuals both sacred and profane.

Standing in the park opposite the Cardinal’s residence you can take in the expansive front lawn of this impressive piece of property.  To the west near the corner, there is a plaque on the edge of the park at Dearborn and North that explains a bit about this location’s history as a former cemetery.

You never know what interesting building or sculpture lies around the corner in the Old town/Gold coast area of Chicago (Photo by reno Lovison)
You never know what interesting building or sculpture lies around the corner in the Old town/Gold coast area of Chicago (Photo by reno Lovison)

Looking to the north is an impressive statue of Abraham Lincoln, to the west of which is the Chicago History Museum with its glass and steel façade and across Clark Street the most interesting shape of the Moody Bible Institute Tabernacle.

Turning back south at North and Clark take a moment to enjoy the historic Germania Club building at Germania Place which currently houses the Lighthouse Immersive Artspace.

Ending my travels was a stroll through Carl Sandburg Village a virtual city within the city. The collection of high-rise and low-rise multi-unit residences are interspersed with single-family townhouses offering a variety of living spaces to accommodate a diversity of middle-income residential needs. Built in the 1960s, Sandburg was intended to be a kind of social buffer separating what was then the lower income Old Town neighborhood from the more affluent Gold Coast. Today it stands as an important example of mid-century urban planning.

Consider following my tour on foot or by bike or make a tour of your own taking time to look around and enjoy the visual spectacle that is Chicago.

Reno Lovison

Reno Lovison has also recorded this as a podcast walking tour at