Modernist masterpieces, religious architecture, spectacular skyscrapers, pre-Civil War architecture and Greek Revival grandeur.
Destroyed by the Great Fire in 1871, the architects who rebuilt Chicago used pioneering techniques to build the first modern skyscrapers. The Chicago Architecture Foundation is the world’s largest public architecture organisation. Start your architectural odyssey with one of their architecture river cruises, walking tours, trolley or bus tours. Other memorable ways to experience Chicago’s monumental cityscape are Segway tours, or take a bird’s eye view of it all with the exhilarating 360 Chicago Tilt, the Ledge at Skydeck Chicago or even a helicopter tour.
Completed in 1953, construction of the Bahá'í House of Worship took 41 years. Considered one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois, the structure – located in Wilmette – is the oldest and largest of the Bahá'í temples and the only in the United States. It features a 135-ft. white-stone dome that seats over 1,000 people and a variety of gorgeous gardens and fountains throughout the courtyard.
The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago opened in 1953 as a traditional Hindu place of worship. Spreading across 27 acres, the Mandir is the largest of its kind in Illinois. The temple boasts intricate designs and patterns, hewn and chiseled into Italian marble and Turkish limestone by 2,000 craftsmen.
American architect Frank Lloyd Wright spent the first 20 years of his career in Chicago. Here he developed the Prairie School style of architecture. Explore the cluster of Wright buildings in Oak Park, where a self-guided walking tour of the historic neighbourhood begins at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. Or tour Wright buildings around Chicago by bus, starting at the Light Court in The Rookery and ending at Frederick C. Robie House.
The German-American architect Mies van der Rohe moved to the U.S. in 1937 and settled in Chicago where he was appointed head of the architecture school at the now Illinois Institute of Technology. Farnsworth House in Plano was built in 1951 as a private residence and the iconic modernist building is now open as a public museum.
The State Capitol in Springfield houses the government of Illinois. The current capitol, built in Renaissance Revival architectural style, is the sixth capitol building since Illinois was granted statehood in 1818. Nearby is the Old State Capitol State Historic Site, the fifth capitol building. Built in the Greek Revival style, it served as the state house from 1840 to 1876.
Many pre-Civil War buildings can be found in the city’s Downtown Historic District. The city is also known for the influence of German immigrants on its architecture and its large number of Craftsman bungalows. Try the self-guided architectural driving tour or the private home tours organised by the Quincy Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The beaux-arts Renaissance Blackstone in Chicago is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has hosted presidents, royalty and celebrities. Sumptuous Beall Mansion in Alton, designed by Lucas Pfeiffenberger, features ionic columns, crystal chandeliers and a statuary. The Victorian DeSoto House Hotel in Galena is Illinois’ oldest hotel. Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant slept here.