Chicago Cultural Center — Architecture and History

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About the Chicago Cultural Center

Drawn by its beauty and the fabulous free public events, hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the Chicago Cultural Center every year, making it one of the most visited attractions in Chicago. The stunning landmark building is home to two magnificent stained–glass domes, as well as free music, dance and theater events, films, lectures, art exhibitions and family events.

Completed in 1897 as Chicago’s first central public library, the building was designed to impress and to prove that Chicago had grown into a sophisticated metropolis. The country’s top architects and craftsmen used the most sumptuous materials, such as rare imported marbles, polished brass, fine hardwoods, and mosaics of Favrile glass, mother-of-pearl and colored stone, to create an architectural showplace. Located on the south side of the building, the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome ― 38 feet in diameter with some 30,000 pieces of glass ― was restored to its original splendor in 2008. On the north side of the building is a 40-foot-diameter dome with some 50,000 pieces of glass in an intricate Renaissance pattern, designed by Healy & Millet.

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. Every year, the Chicago Cultural Center presents hundreds of free international, national, regional and local artists, musicians and performers, providing a showcase where the public can enjoy and learn about the arts.

Come for the beauty, stay for the events.


  • The People’s Palace: The Story of the Chicago Cultural Center
    The People’s Palace: The Story of the Chicago Cultural Center was published by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs in 1999. Please note that the book is out of print, and also that the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs retains all rights to the book. No part of the contents may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher.



  • Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Hall and Rotunda
    The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) rooms in the Chicago Cultural Center, completed in 1897 (celebrating 125 years in 2022), were designed by the Boston firm of Shepley Rutan and Coolidge as a site to honor the social, political, and moral well-being of Civil War veterans and their families.