Auditorium Building featured in Open House Chicago Weekend


A woman admiring the artwork sketches in the Sullivan room. Photo by Megan Schuller

By Megan Schuller

The Auditorium building’s doors were opened to the public during the Open House Chicago event hosted by the Chicago Architectural Foundation.

Open House Chicago is annually held citywide with more than 200 sites in 20 neighborhoods since it began in 2011.

“The sites in these neighborhoods reflect the cultural diversity and history of Chicago, as well as the unique character of each community,” The CAF website states.

Spaces highlighted were the Michigan Avenue lobby, Fainman lounge, the Sullivan room, Ganz Hall, and the Library. The Auditorium theatre was not able to be shown on Saturday due to a showing of Romeo and Juliet that weekend.

According to Garrett Karp, Programs Manager for Open House Chicago, the auditorium building and auditorium theatre last participated in Open House Chicago in 2011 and 2012.

“It’s one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in the city and we know thousands of people want to see inside—especially now that the building is secured and the public is not normally allowed inside,” Karp said.

Margaret Ketcham, an architect and graduate from the University of Notre Dame in 1985, sat in the library sketching the view out the window of Michigan Ave.

“It’s very rare the public has access to the Sullivan rooms. As an architect I’m always looking for access. I like to draw and I know that this room has good views of the park, the fountain, and the lake,” Ketcham said.

Jodi Daily, Roosevelt’s director of conference services, gave some historical background into some of the spaces that were viewed.

“This building was originally the Grand Hotel. It was the first building in the city to have electricity. When it was a hotel, the Sullivan room was a women’s lounge, so that’s where they had tea, meetings of the Women’s League,” Daily said. “The Library was the dining hall, so that’s where all of there meals were taken, and held entertainment and performances in a grand fashion.”

One issue with the large crowds in the building was accessibility.

“Due to elevator capacity and security constraints, it’s not particularly easy to route large amounts of visitors through the Auditorium Building to see the unique architectural spaces (Ganz Hall, the Library, etc.) The trick was having enough buy-in and staffing from the staff/security at Roosevelt and support from Open House Chicago volunteers, which we were very lucky to have this year and hope we can continue in the future,” Karp said.

People were waiting in a line at 12 p.m. outside for the doors to open, according to Daily, who volunteered at the event.

“People don’t realize how much history our building really has. It’s 126 years old, a lot of things happened in these walls. We should be proud of [our history], people want to see it,” Daily said.

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