Architectural festival to include Jefferson Park, Portage Park


Behind-the-scenes access to the Copernicus Center, the Jefferson Masonic Temple, Schurz High School and other prominent buildings on the Northwest Side will be part of the city’s largest architectural festival that it is held each fall.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s “Open House Chicago” will be held Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 15-16 at more than 200 locations in the city and Evanston. The free festival began in 2011 and is intended to showcase properties which generally are not open for tours.

This year marks the first time the festival includes buildings on the Northwest Side, according to Northwest Chicago Historical Society researcher Frank Suerth. “It’s a really big deal,” Suerth said. “It’s going to bring people from other parts of the city and suburbs and who otherwise may never know where Jefferson Park is.”

The fact that the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave., and the Jefferson Masonic Temple, 5418 W. Gale St., are only a block from the CTA Blue Line and Metra Jefferson Park stations should encourage many fest-goers to include the Northwest Side on their itinerary, Suerth said. Most of the buildings in the festival are near the Lakefront, he said.

The center, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, houses the former Gateway movie theater which the Copernicus Foundation transformed into a civic and cultural center in the early 1980s. The 1,900-seat theater, which was built in 1930, was designed by the Rapp and Rapp architectural firm and is one of four remaining atmospheric theaters in the city.

The temple, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, was built in 1912, and in recent years it has undergone significant renovations, avoiding the fate of so many Masonic temples which have closed in the city. Providence Lodge, which held its first meeting in a blacksmith shop, was the initial occupant of the temple, but nowadays several Masonic groups lease the building.

Our Lady of Victory Church, 5212 W. Agatite Ave., which will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and closed Sunday, includes a lower church that was built in 1928 and an upper-church that was completed in 1954. “The warm stone of the Spanish-style exterior was selected specifically to complement the color of the ornate terra cotta around the original entrance. The warmth of the exterior extends to the sanctuary’s lavish tan and pink marble and terrazzo,” the foundation’s Web site states.

Schurz High School, 3601 N. Milwaukee Ave., which will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and closed Sunday, was built in 1910 and serves as a rare example of Prairie-style architecture being applied to a large institutional building, according to the foundation. “The eye-catching orange and brown behemoth features intricate two-tone brickwork and a severely-angled overhanging gabled roof,” its Web site states.

The Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., which will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, opened in 1920, and it lobby was renovated in 1940 with a streamlined design to reflect newer Art Deco buildings in the Six Corners commercial district. The movie theater closed in 2001, and in 2006 it re-opened as a multi-purpose performance center.

The Portage Arts Lofts, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., which will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, was built in 1940 and features 50-foot-wide column-free interiors on all four floors. Once home to the Straus and Schram furniture store, the building’s current tenants include the Filament Theater, National Veterans Art Museum, Six Corners Association, Art Side Out Studio and Mark Shop and Chicago Ballet Center.

The Muslim Community Center, 4380 N. Elston Ave., which will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and closed Sunday, was built in 1923. Originally the Rivoli Theater, the building was later converted into a banquet hall, and in the early 1980s the community center opened.

The festival’s community partners include the historical society, the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce and the Six Corners Association.

In celebration of the festival, Suerth will discuss the area’s history and conduct a brief tour of the theater at the Jefferson Park of Commerce’s general membership meeting at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at the center. The meeting is open to the public.

Registration is not required to visit any of the buildings which are part of the festival. A complete list of locations and times is available at

Former Gateway Theater, which is now part of the Copernicus Center

This photo shows the former Gateway Theater, which is now part of the Copernicus Center, when it opened in 1930. The Copernicus Center is one one of 7 NW Side buildings featured in "Open House Chicago" on Oct.
15-16. (Photo courtesy of Copernicus Foundation via Theatre Historical Society of America)