CHICAGO | Looking to understand more about the past, present, and future of the city we all love? The Chicago Architecture Foundation (“CAF”), along with its more than 1,500 docents, is a wealth of knowledge and makes learning about Chicago interactive and fun.
CAF was founded in 1966 for the purpose of preserving the Glessner House. This fortress-style house was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson in the 1880s, some believe to protect its inhabitants from the growing unrest during America’s Gilded Age. Although the majority of the other historic mansions in this area of Prairie Avenue have been lost over time, CAF was successful in preserving this piece of Chicago’s history, which is now a museum educating the public about the history and architecture of the Gilded Age. Since 1966, CAF has grown to become one of the largest cultural organizations in Chicago with more than 85 tours and other programs.
The mission statement for CAF is to inspire people to discover why design matters. We recommend stopping by CAF’s shop at 224 South Michigan Avenue to peruse the store and view their 1,000+ building scale model of Chicago.
The Architecture River Cruise, aboard Chicago’s First Lady, is a must-do for any guests in town, and locals too. The cruise makes for a perfect way to spend a Spring or Summer afternoon – the 90-minute boat tour highlights many of the famous buildings along the Chicago River. In the city known for its architecture, we like to remember how it got this reputation since being incorporated back in 1837 to now being the third largest city in the US.
There are more than 85 tours and programs offered by CAF, and we have made sure to take advantage of many of these tours and lectures. Some recent favorite’s of ours include: Historic Treasures of Culture and Commerce, Art Deco Skyscrapers: Downtown, and Devil in the White City Tour. These tours are a reminder to stop and notice some designs in the city that can be taken for granted. The Chicago Cultural Center, for example, is a building many Chicagoans pass by daily on their commute. This landmark building contains an ornate 38-foot Tiffany glass dome; the largest Tiffany dome in the world. The Art Deco tour showcases a style that is uniquely American, with a scattering of remaining art deco buildings, lobbies, and art throughout Chicago’s Loop and Magnificent Mile neighborhoods.
The Devil in the White City tour, meanwhile, was created in response to the popularity of Erik Larson’s book, “The Devil in the White City.” This tour includes a presentation about the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and the concurrent murders that were happening in the city by what some people believe to be the first known serial killer in the US., Dr. H.H. Holmes. The tour then takes guests to the historic Prairie Avenue district, an area where some of the most wealthy and prominent business people in Chicago lived during the years surrounding the World’s Fair. To conclude, you have the chance to walk around Jackson Park to see the buildings which remain standing from this historical era. This Spring we look forward to checking up the tour of Humboldt Park, Palmer Square, and the 606 Ttrail.
If you appreciate Chicago architecture, membership with CAF offers great perks for a $70 per individual fee. Membership includes 65+ free walking tours, discounts on specialty tours charging a fee, lectures and programs, and supports students and educators in the field of architecture. Tours can be booked in advance online. Note that tips are not accepted by the volunteer CAF docents.
Have you been on a CAF tour before? Let us know which is your favourite in the comments section.
Chicago Architecture Foundation Tours
224 S Michigan Avenue
Telephone: 312 922 3432