When it comes to architecture, there’s no shortage on style! Whether they’re tall or short, modern or gothic, buildings hold the interior of our lives from where we work, live and play.
Join us as we show you all of the ways that you can experience Illinois’ incredible architecture for yourself! From iconic, well-known structures to hidden gems, architecture truly makes Illinois stand out.
What better place to begin exploring Illinois architecture than with the city known for its beautiful and unique buildings – Chicago! The Windy City’s claim to architectural greatness is nothing new. In fact, the very first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building, wowed people with its 10 story design when it opened its doors to Chicagoans in 1884. Although the Home Insurance Building was demolished in 1941, Chicago has no shortage of architectural treasures standing today, being widely considered one of the modern architectural capitals of the world.
(Photo credit: Instagram user shyscout)
An original to the Chicago skyline, the Wrigley Building remains a standout against the modern skyscrapers that line the Chicago River. When it was first built by Charles Beersman in 1920, it was the tallest building in Chicago and was inspired by the Seville Cathedral’s Giralda Tower in Spain.
(Photo credit: Nick Ulivieri)
Designed by John Wellborn Root in 1885, the Rookery depicts structural advances for urban buildings during that time. The Rookery holds an elaborate main lobby and a light court renovated by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905.
Next stop: Hyde Park! Built in 1910, Robie House is Frank Lloyd’s Wright’s architectural masterpiece. Its Prairie-style features each element, site, structure, foundation and decoration intertwined with one another.
(Photo by Instagram user silverspoon.paris)
Speaking of Frank Lloyd Wright, his Home and Studio in Oak Park was built in 1899 and was Wright’s private residence and studio during his early career. It was his first design where he practiced complete artistic control and experimented with new ideas. Wright went on to build and renovate 25 homes and buildings in Oak Park, more than anywhere else in the world.
Chicago makes it easy for you take in all of its architectural treasures. Roll from one site to the next during a Chicago Segway Tour, running daily from the southeast corner of Millennium Park. If biking is more your style, try out Pedal Oak Park for a chance to tour the historic village and get an up-close look at some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s incredible creations. A favorite of Chicago residents and visitors alike, grab a seat on one of the many architectural boat tours, running along the Chicago River and beyond from April-November.
With over 3,600 buildings on the National Historic Register, you can’t get the full Illinois architectural experience without a stop in Quincy. One of the most populous and influential cities in the state in the mid-1800s to early 1900s, it is home to an impressive array of architecture and styles, with many examples of stylish homes, some dating as early as 1830.
One of the more well-known mansions in Quincy is the Newcomb-Stillwell Mansion. Located right on Maine Street, it was completed in 1891, and is now the home of the Quincy Museum. You can stop in to learn about the robust history of this city, covering everything from dinosaurs and local wildlife to Native American culture.
Just a short trip down the road, you’ll find another one of Quincy’s renowned treasures- Villa Kathrine! This gorgeous estate is a unique example of Mediterranean architecture in the Midwest. Designed by architect, George Behrensmeyer in 1900, you will feel transported overseas when you step foot into this home, modeled after the Villa Ben Ahben in Morocco.
(Photo credit: Instagram user jennynv97)
Don’t be fooled into thinking that historical homes are all Quincy has to offer. The city is home to dozens of modern structures, such as the Bayview Bridge. Built in 1987, this gorgeous passage stretches across the Mississippi River, connecting the cities of West Quincy, MO and Quincy, IL. While there is never a bad time of day to visit this incredible structure, a trip after dark will allow you to see the bridge’s cables and beams beautifully lit up against the night sky.
(Photo courtesy of Preserve Quincy)
There is no shortage of ways for you to experience Quincy’s architecture for yourself. The Self-Guided Architectural Driving Tour has become a visitor favorite. This comprehensive list takes you through 15 key areas of the city, exposing a slew of diverse styles from Prairie to Modern. You can also hit the streets and pedal your way through historic treasures by renting a bike through Tour Quincy Bikes. An Architectural Guide is provided with your cycle to make sure you don’t miss a stop. If you’re interested in interior design, there are a number of interior tours of some of Quincy’s most stunning gems, many given by the homeowners themselves.
As the state’s capital and home of former president Abraham Lincoln, Springfield is rich with history. Let’s dive into two of the must-see buildings.
The Dana-Thomas House is another example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s genius. Designed in 1902, the house features 35 rooms within 12,000 square feet split between nineteen total varied levels. It also displays detailed craftsmanship of glass doors, windows, terra cotta sculptures and a mural.
The Old State Capitol Building is one of the pillars of Springfield. Open to the public for tours, this State Historic Site served as the seat of state government and a center of Illinois political life from 1839-1876.
(Photo courtesy of Westcott Center for Architecture and Design)
A great way to explore the scenic beauty and fascinating history of Springfield is to join the Westcott Center for Architecture and Design on one of their city tours. The Summer Tour Series celebrates Springfield’s distinctive architecture and history with eighteen amazing tours of several areas including the South Fountain Historic District and “Millionaire’s Row”. Starting in late May and running throughout the summer, local architects, historians, curators, and docents guide you through landmarks around city. The series includes walking tours, youth tours, happy hour tours and bicycle tours to make sure that everyone can get in on the fun.
We’ll end our architectural journey in Galena, a quaint, historic town in the northwest corner of Illinois.
There’s no better place to begin your tour of Galena than with its oldest home, The Dowling House! Built in 1826 by John Dowling himself, it was once the only trading post in the city, hosting many fur traders in years past. Tour guides are on site to take you through a complete history of the development of the city of Galena and Dowling House’s important role in it. You’ll also get the chance to browse through quaint artifacts straight from the early nineteenth century.
Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the only President to reside in the great state of Illinois. Upon his return from the Civil War in 1865, the city of Galena presented General and future U.S. President, Grant, with this stately home. This Italianate home was turned over to the public in 1904 and preserved with many original furnishings as a memorial to Grant, just waiting for you to explore.
You can tour these architectural landmarks and more of Galena’s history and charm in a trolley car with Galena’s Trolley Tours! The trolley offers a number of architecture tours that explore Galena’s Historic district and famous Galena Homes, even offering a night time haunted ghost tour for those who dare.
Looking for more ways to explore the state this summer? Check out enjoyillinois.com.
-Illinois Office of Tourism