HERMOSA — For the first time, people can explore architectural and cultural gems in Hermosa as part of Open House Chicago, an annual festival dedicated to the city’s “architectural discoveries and delights.”
Open House Chicago, set for Saturday and Sunday, invites people to tour interesting buildings in neighborhoods across the city, from historic churches and theaters to revived mansions and warehouses. The event is organized by the Chicago Architecture Center.
This year’s lineup includes the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, 4046 W. Armitage Ave., a 50-year-old, youth-focused arts organization in Hermosa. People can also go on self-guided tours of Hermosa’s historic bungalow district anytime leading up to the fest.
It’s the first time the neighborhood has been included in Open House Chicago.
The festival, now in its 12th year, has gradually added more neighborhoods to its roster over the years with the goal of eventually covering the entire city, said Ian Spula, content manager for the Chicago Architecture Center.
Hermosa, a majority Latino, working-class neighborhood home to bungalows and Walt Disney’s childhood home, was a natural addition, Spula said.
“We’ve been around the Northwest Side quite a bit. Avondale, Logan Square, Portage Park, Albany Park, Jefferson Park — they’ve all done stints in the festival. We said, ‘Let’s look into Hermosa,'” Spula said. “It’s a beautiful neighborhood well worth the exploration.”
The Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center met the festival’s criteria for its cultural vibrancy and rich history, Spula said.
Established in 1971, the center’s mission is to “preserve and promote appreciation of the culture and arts of Puerto Rico and Latin America, with a focus on its African heritage” through programs and performances, according to its website.
The cultural center regularly partners with prominent artists and Grammy Award-winning musicians on youth workshops and other events. Last week, it organized the mural project at Julia de Burgos Park along The 606’s Bloomingdale Trail. The mural is being painted by Colectivo Morivivi, an all-women artist collective in Puerto Rico.
Open House Chicago is great exposure for the cultural center, which is still considered off the beaten path to some, Executive Director Omar Torres-Kortright said.
“We need as far reach as possible; we need people to come here, see a show and support our mission,” Torres-Kortright said. “Anything that will put more eyes on what we’re doing and will give an opportunity for more people to take advantage of these programs is what we want.”
Originally located in Wicker Park, the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center moved to Hermosa in 2007 after it became clear “that Puerto Ricans were no longer a cultural presence” in Wicker Park, Torres-Kortright said.
The cultural center occupies the former Karlov Theater, a 900-seat theater that ran from 1917 to 1952, according to Open House Chicago. The organization uses the building’s retail storefronts for everything from bomba classes to photography exhibits.
Also new to the fest this year is a spotlight on Hermosa’s residential architecture.
Self-guided tours of Hermosa’s historic bungalow district, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, are accessible through the Open House Chicago app.The tours include audio commentary from locals.
“Many skilled workers from Scotland, Germany and Sweden settled here, including Walt Disney’s father, who built a cottage at Tripp and Palmer Streets in 1893. The southern area near Armitage and Fullerton developed first, and in the 1920s the north end of Hermosa filled in with bungalows,” festival organizers said.
Chatham also made the Open House Chicago list for the first time this year.
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