Getting Cultured At The Chicago Cultural Center

A while back I wrote and posted pictures of one of my all-time favorite things in the world, which is the Tiffany ceiling (the world’s largest unbroken example of Favrile glass) high above the cosmetics department in Marshall Field’s (ahem, Macy’s to those of you who like to be current and official: *I* still call it Marshall Field’s) on State Street. I take all of my out-of-town visitors there and everyone’s reaction is the same: their jaw drops practically to the floor and they can’t stop staring at it.

The city of Chicago is full of precious architectural treasures like that gorgeous ceiling that would be considered “must-sees”. Another one of those treasures is right across Michigan Avenue from Millennium Park: the Chicago Cultural Center. Originally the Chicago Public Library, the cost of construction (which started in 1892, twenty-one years after the Great Chicago Fire) was covered by a 1% tax levied by the City Council on all residents. The library was a bustling place where visitors could not only read daily newspapers, do research, or enjoy books to their hearts’ content, but also take part in cultural programming. In the late 1960s, it was determined that though the building’s structure was still safe, the mechanical, electrical, and communication systems badly needed updating. In addition, the collection of the library was way too large for the building. In the early 1970s a public debate began on whether to spend the money on a renovation or to demolish the building entirely.

Luckily, the building was saved. In 1972 the Chicago Public Library was moved to another location and the structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by Senator Adlai Stevenson III . This designation prevented it from ever being demolished. It’s a good thing, too, because if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have been able to share pictures with you today!

The exterior itself is a wonder to see, but the inside is–like the ceiling at Marshall Field’s, jaw-droppingly beautiful. Tile and glass mosaics cover the walls, and the world’s largest Tiffany glass dome can be found by taking the beautiful staircase up to the second level. A major restoration was completed in 2008, which you can read about by clicking here. The pictures say more than words, so just enjoy.









I could have sprawled out on the floor, on my back, and gazed at that dome for hours. I wonder if that’s allowed.

Tomorrow? The Rookery. Stay tuned!


  • Margaret

    My favorite interior in all of Chicago (although, the Rookery comes in really close). I love the Cultural Center with all of my heart and soul. It’s a fine example of Chicago proving itself and in this day and age, it’s a public, urban building, free to us and is the best place to do some work on a Thursday afternoon.

    YAY! Beautiful pics.

  • Grandma W

    I love it all and haven’t seen it for years I want to go when I come and visit. Will you take me?

    Grandma W

  • Tara R.

    I missed seeing these when I was in Chicago a couple of years ago. I need to remedy that and make a return trip. I hear there is a new book that has all these great things to do in town with teens and tweens. Are these listed in “Chicken in the Car, and the Car Won’t Go?”