Grand Army of the Republic Hall and Rotunda Reopening Weekend

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Saturday and Sunday, March 26–27

Chicago Cultural Center • 2nd Floor North

 

Chicago Cultural Center G.A.R. Dome

(click on image to enlarge)

 

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) are pleased to announce the late-March reopening of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Memorial Hall and Rotunda at the Chicago Cultural Center following a year-long restoration. Free public programming during a special Reopening Weekend, March 26–27, will include tours, talks, dance performances and more in addition to continuing exhibitions, Welcome Center and Learning Lab events and shopping at BUDDY — also celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Chicago Cultural Center, which opened in 1897.

 

Reopening Weekend Schedule of Events (subject to change):

 

Saturday, March 26:

  • 11am, “MYTH BUSTIN’ — The REAL Story Behind the G.A.R. Rooms” with Cultural Historian Emeritus Tim Samuelson (G.A.R. Foyer)
  • 12pm and 12:30pm, Guided Tours (G.A.R. Foyer)
  • 12-2pm, Yollocalli Youth Radio program 'Wattz Up!' broadcasts live for their Season #19 opening day - Buddy Store, 1st Floor South
  • 1pm, Behind-the-Scenes Tour with Harboe Architects (G.A.R. Hall)
  • 1-4pm, Relief Printing Workshop with Hoofprint - Buddy Store, 1st Floor South
    Create a set of printed coasters live with Hoofrint from hand-carved linoleum cuts from Chicago artists. Free takeaway.
  • 2pm, “What Sacrifice & Freedom Mean Today” with Professor Emeritus at Roosevelt University Christopher R. Reed, Lewis University Professor of History Dr. Eileen McMahon and artist, researcher, and art therapist Johanna Tesfaye; moderated by Chicago Sun-Times Columnist & ABC-7 Chicago Political Analyst Laura S. Washington (G.A.R. Hall)
  • 3pm, Performance by Red Clay Dance (G.A.R. Hall and beyond) Plus, View the G.A.R. documentary by Chanel 25 (G.A.R. Foyer), visit our hands-on art cart and exhibit displays (G.A.R. Hall) or take a self-guided tour. (Building is open 10am – 5pm)

 

Sunday, March 27:

  • 11am, “MYTH BUSTIN’ — The REAL Story Behind the G.A.R. Rooms” with Cultural Historian Emeritus Tim Samuelson (G.A.R. Foyer)
  • 12pm and 12:30pm, Guided Tours (G.A.R. Foyer)
  • 1pm, Behind-the-Scenes Tour with Harboe Architects (G.A.R. Hall)
  • 2-5pm, Ceramics in Architecture Workshop with GnarWare - Buddy Store, 1st Floor South
    Create architecturally-inspired hand-built and glazed ceramics with a GnarWare instructor. Ceramics will be fired and can be picked up at the Buddy store after the workshop.

 

In addition to in-person programming, a new TV documentary (“Restoration”) airing in May chronicles the work of Harboe Architects and a team of fine artists and preservation experts as they restore the historic Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall and Rotunda in the Chicago Cultural Center to their original 1897 grandeur and beauty. “Restoration” will air in May on Comcast, RCN, and WOW on Cable25. Check the Chicago Cultural Center website for dates and times.

The Chicago Cultural Center restoration, which began in February 2021 following an intensive yearlong study, was executed by Harboe Architects and a team of highly specialized preservation experts and artisans, in partnership with the Department of Assets, Information and Services (AIS) and in consultation with conservators and Tim Samuelson, Cultural Historian Emeritus for the City of Chicago. The Landmarks Commission reviewed and unanimously approved the project. The meticulous restoration of the art glass dome and decorative finishes in the G.A.R. rooms, a Civil War memorial, was made possible by a generous grant of services valued at $15,425,000 to the City of Chicago. (The Chicago Cultural Center is home to two magnificent stained-glass domes; the restoration of the Tiffany dome in Preston Bradley Hall was completed in 2008.)

 

Grand Army of the Republic Hall and Rotunda —Self Guided Tour

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. Their historic restoration, completed in 2022, shines a fresh light on the rooms’ purpose. Spend some time lingering in the space to reflect on what is lost and gained through sacrifice, how the sacrifice of others before us has benefited our freedom — and how we are still fighting for freedom today.

 

G.A.R. Rotunda and Dome

The 40-foot diameter, 62,000-piece art glass G.A.R. dome is even larger than the dome in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall. In the 1940s, the dome was placed under a cement and copper cover (and lit with electric lights) to end damaging water intrusion. Now the stained glass is fully restored, lit with natural light and protected by a new state-of-the-art clear cover. The dome’s leaded glass underwent a monumental cleaning, repair and re-assembling process at Daprato Rigali Studios, located on the far Northwest Side of Chicago, revealing its overwhelming beauty. The restoration team discovered that the original Tiffany-designed finishes of the cast-iron dome frame were completely intact beneath layers of grime. In this room, you will also see the original paint colors revealed chip by chip, repaired plaster detailing, re-created moldings, and renovated embossed plaster carvings on the ceiling.

 

G.A.R. Hall

In gold around the room is a chronological listing of major Civil War battles. The green marble is from Vermont. The newly restored cherry wood cases along the walls previously displayed Civil War artifacts, which are now preserved at the Chicago Public Library’s Harold Washington Library Center. During the restoration, the ceiling, upper walls, and crown molding all were treated to intricate paint removal, damage repair and painstaking touch-up work. The carpets, newly created by computer to duplicate the patterns and colors of the irreparably damaged original mosaic and terrazzo floors, will now help control sound; not a functional concern in 1897. Cutting-edge technologies were used to recreate missing 1897 elements. To recreate the long-missing chandeliers, old photographs and architectural drawings were brought to life through computer imaging, and models of individual pieces were generated by 3D printing. They were then recast in the original bronze and feature replica hand-blown glass shades. The enormous windows have been restored to their original clear glass, allowing light flow into the room (with UV protection) and a stunning view into G.A.R. Hall from the street below.

 

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Visit us:

Chicago Cultural Center

Admission is FREE
Open Daily, 10am–5pm
Exhibitions close 15 minutes before the building closes
(Closed Holidays)


Find us:

Chicago Cultural Center
77 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601



Parking:

Nearby parking garages are located at Grant Park North Garage (25 N. Michigan Ave.), Grant Park South Garage (325 S. Michigan Ave.) and Millennium Park Garage & Millennium Lakeside Garage (5 S. Columbus Dr.).

Pay in person at each garage location or pre-pay online for discounted parking. Visit www.millenniumgarages.com/rates or call 312.616.0600 for 24/7 customer service.

Public Transportation:

CTA

Take CTA to the Chicago Cultural Center

From the elevated lines: exit at Washington/Wabash and walk east.

From the subway: exit at Lake (Red Line) or Washington (Blue Line) and walk east.

Served by Michigan Avenue buses 3, 4, 19, 20, 26, 60, 66, 124, 143, 147, 151, 157 and Washington St. buses 4, J14, 20, 56, 66, 147.

For travel information, visit www.transitchicago.com. For fare information or to purchase fares in advance, visit www.ventrachicago.com.