The Chicago Cultural Center is one of the city’s most popular attractions and considered one of the most comprehensive arts showcases in the United States with more than 800 free cultural programs and exhibitions yearly covering a wide range of the performing, visual and literary arts.
The Chicago Cultural Center was completed in 1897 with a cost of nearly $2 million and dedicated as the city’s original Chicago Public Library. This remarkable monument was inspired by the neo-classical style of the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893.
The building’s structure consists of three-foot thick masonry walls faced with Bedford limestone that are set 104 feet above a granite base. Sumptuous materials used in the interior design include rare imported marble, fine hardwood, stained-glass, and polished brass, colored stone and mother-of-pearl. The building’s most notable features are its spectacular stained-glass domes. The 38-foot dome in the Preston Bradley Hall at the south end of the building is the world’s largest Tiffany stained-glass dome, valued at an estimated $35 million.
In 1991, the building was established as the Chicago Cultural Center by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the nation’s first and most comprehensive free municipal cultural venue.
Chicago Cultural Center was designed in a generally neoclassical style with Italian Renaissance elements . Top architects and craftsmen used the most sumptuous materials . Entrance with doric columns, mahogany doors, and entry hall with coffered ceiling and walls of green-veined Vermont marble. The curving stairway is faced with Knoxville pink marble, and features mosaics and ornate bronze balusters. Most interesting architectural features are:
- Washington Street entrance, lobby, and grand staircase
- Grand Army of the Republic Memorial is a large hall and rotunda in the north wing
- Sidney R. Yates Gallery is a replica of an assembly hall in the Doge’s Palace, Venice, with heavily ornamented pilasters and coffered ceiling.
- Preston Bradley Hall is a large, ornately patterned room of curving white Carrara marble
- Tiffany dome , the world’s largest stained glass , has 38 feet in diameter with some 30,000 pieces of glass
Admission to the Chicago Cultural Center free of charge . Visitors are delighted with exhibitions and programs covering a wide range of the performing, visual, and literary arts. Programs showcase classical, jazz, world, folk, pop and vocal music concerts , readings and performances of new and classic plays , modern dance performances , film screenings , lectures , art discussions and more. Exhibitions ranging from international traveling shows to one-person shows by local artists present a wide range of traditional and new media, including painting, sculpture, photography, graphics, crafts, architecture and design.The Cultural Center also houses a Cafe, the Shop at the Cultural Center gift shop, the Chicago Publishers Gallery, the Chicago Office of Tourism ,Visitor Information Center and Renaissance Court.
Chicago Cultural Center was the fifth most-visited cultural institution in the Chicago area in 2007, with 821,000 visitors. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the Chicago Cultural Center every year, making it one of the most visited attractions in Chicago.