The Great Fire, family walking tours and Open House Chicago

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JUNE 15, 2021 • ISSUE 39



The Chicago Architecture Center is commemorating 150 years of resilience after the Great Fire with a series of programs illuminating the myths and untold stories surrounding this pivotal moment in the city’s history. Over the next few months, public programs, family walking tours, a new bus tour and an Open House Chicago trail will dive into how the fire fundamentally changed Chicago’s built environment and the ways it impacted people’s lives. Watch this space for upcoming programming!

The CAC’s Great Chicago Fire program series is made possible by Underwriters Laboratories Inc.


Book Talk: Historian Carl Smith on Chicago's Great Fire
Tuesday, June 22 at 6pm

Join author Carl Smith as he discusses his new work of nonfiction, Chicago’s Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City.

Book Talk

This Book Talk is part of the CAC’s Great Chicago Fire program series, made possible by Underwriters Laboratories Inc.

Chicago's Architectural Palette of Clay and Stone
Wednesday, June 23 at noon

Terra cotta, brick and stone masonry have been fundamental building materials since the Neolithic age. Join us as we explore how these materials make Chicago’s architecture, even as they are often taken for granted.

Chicago's Architectural Palate of Clay and Stone

This program is supported by a gift of the Gary family in memory of Myra Gary and in honor of the Docents’ 50th Anniversary.

Virtual Tour: Go Inside Studio Gang's Solstice on the Park
Wednesday, July 14 at 6pm

Don’t miss this up-close investigation of Studio Gang’s exciting new project, Solstice on the Park. Learn how the building carries forward a tradition of architectural innovation in Hyde Park, and see what life is like inside its unique apartments.

Virtual Tour


Oak Woods Cemetery


In recognition of Juneteenth, an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, the CAC invites you to join our very special tour of Oak Woods Cemetery on Chicago's South Side. The lush 19th-century landscape is the final resting place for several of Chicago's most celebrated and iconic African American residents, including Mayor Harold Washington, journalist Ida B. Wells, Olympian Jesse Owens, and musicians Thomas A. Dorsey and Roebuck "Pops" Staples. On a day that celebrates freedom, this guided walk through the historic burial ground offers an opportunity for education and reflection.

Departures on June 19 are limited, but additional dates have been added.


CAFC River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady


The CAFC River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady is the perfect way to experience the city this summer. Join CAC docents as they share a behind-the-scenes look at more than fifty of the city's most iconic buildings. Discover how Chicago grew from a small settlement to a major city that's home to so many architectural wonders over the course of 90 minutes. Visitors and locals alike are sure to learn something new on this open-air boat tour.


Girls Build Summer Camp

Girls Build! Summer Camp

Parks and Green Spaces

Virtual: July 19 – 23
9:30 – 12:30 CST

Chicago’s parks, boulevards and green spaces are what makes our city a vibrant and livable urban place. In this virtual camp, students will learn how horticulture and landscape architecture has shaped our cityscape and the environmental impacts of urbanism. Students will complete their work in a final showcase by recording a tour of a park in their neighborhood.

Urban Gardens

Live: August 9 – 13
9a – 3p CST

Want to fight climate change, feed your community and be a superhero all at the same time? Start by learning about urban gardens in this one-week camp designed for new and seasoned Girls Build! participants. Explore how urban gardening is building communities through sustainable design in this hands-on experience.


Family Walking Tour

Celebrate the field of engineering as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. Take a 90-minute tour of the Chicago Loop with a trained Education Guide as we explore the lessons learned after the fire and relics from that era we can still see today.


Open House Chicago

Save the Date: Open House Chicago announced for October 16-17!

Open House Chicago returns to the city this October. During OHC weekend, the public will be granted behind-the-scenes access to architecturally, historically and culturally significant sites across the city. Discover the stories and the spirit of Chicago's neighborhoods on new and revised self-guided trails, accessible through the OHC 2021 app. A selection of virtual programs will also take place throughout the month of October, bringing community members and city leaders together for insightful conversations.

OHC 2021 will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Chicago’s Great Fire with a special self-guided trail. Retrace the course of the infamous blaze through the South Loop and along the near West Side while exploring stories of the fire through social and architectural lenses.

Wintrust is the Presenting Sponsor of Open House Chicago 2021.


Select CAC walking tour departures are now available for purchase. Please note that advance reservations are required for all CAC walking tours. The Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruises aboard Chicago’s First Lady are now running. All CAC tour attendees are prompted to acknowledge and accept the CAC’s safety policies. Effective Friday, June 11, in accordance with CDC, State and City guidelines moving Chicago fully into Phase 5 of the City Recovery Plan, masks will no longer be required for fully vaccinated individuals. Masks are still encouraged for those who aren’t fully vaccinated. Located at 111 East Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago, the Center's galleries are now open.

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