The doors to Chicago’s finest places and spaces don’t unlock themselves. This year, we’re introducing you to the passionate, enthusiastic people helping us put Open House Chicago 2016 together.
Virginia Carstarphen is owner and operator at Old Chicago Inn. Hidden beneath this quaint Lakeview bed and breakfast is a password-protected speakeasy known as Room 13. Every weekend, the password changes. On a typical weekend, it’s provided to club members only. But during Open House Chicago weekend, Virginia has been kind enough to drop CAC a hint, one that allows visitors to get inside Room 13, too—if they’ve carefully read the OHC Event Guide, that is.
What’s your favorite part about this site? Why should people see it?
My favorite part about Room 13 is that it is our living history project. From the décor to the menu, we try to capture the spirit of the 1920s in Chicago. I feel like I have stepped back in time when the lights are dimmed, jazz wafts through the air and the bartender starts crafting whiskey sours and the like.
What was your favorite OHC experience?
My favorite thing about our OHC visitors has to be the moment when they knock on the speakeasy door. The small hatch opens, and they’re asked for a password. Once the door opens from the below-street-level gangway and they’re welcomed into the speakeasy space, the surprise on their faces is tremendously rewarding. We’ve heard so many people say, “I never would have guessed this was down here!”
What’s the most common question you get asked by OHC visitors?
“Was there really a speakeasy here?” I wish I could definitively say, “Yes!” Although rumors abound that speakeasies existed in our neighborhood during Prohibition, we have no real proof that there was one in our building. We did find a door, bricked up long ago, that led from the garden level to the gangway—that got our imagination going! It’s what led us to renovate the garden level as a speakeasy lounge for our guests in 2011.