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Chicago Architecture Foundation Facts

Glessner House Monadnock Building Railway Exchange Building Atrium

In 1966, a group of community members came together to save H. H. Richardson’s architectural masterpiece, the Glessner House—a private home on Prairie Avenue—from demolition. The successful effort to save Glessner House brought together committed citizens from across disciplines and professions, and led to the founding of the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

In 1970, the Chicago Architecture Foundation initiated an award-winning volunteer docent education program and the following year began offering its now world-renowned Loop walking tours.

In 1976, the organization moved to the Monadnock Building and began presenting exhibitions and conducting educational programs. In 1992, the organization moved to its current location, the historic Santa Fe Building, designed by Daniel Burnham, on South Michigan Avenue.

In 1993, the Chicago Architecture Foundation began giving the Architecture River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady. Still running today, the river cruise is the #1 Architecture tour in Chicago.

Today, the Chicago Architecture Foundation is a leading organization in architecture and design and is considered a model for similar institutions around the world. CAF's continued growth and success as one of Chicago's top ten cultural destinations is thanks in large part to our institutional funders.


Facts and figures from 2013 reflect the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s substantial reach:

  • Total Audience—517,674
  • Total Tour Attendance—319,661
  • Social Media Audience—132,000
  • Number of Members—9,700
  • Number of Tour Departures—6,395
  • Number of Tours—85
  • Youth Education—48,617 students and teachers including
    national distribution of Award-winning curricula
  • Operating Budget—$17 Million
  • Number of Open House Chicago volunteers—1,367
  • Number of volunteer docents—450
  • Number of other volunteers—431
  • All tours—boat, bus, walking, bicycle, and Segway—are led by docents
  • The Chicago Architecture Foundation Shop offers architecture and design themed books, artist jewelry, educational toys, Chicago Architecture Foundation products, and great gifts
  • Free weekly lectures and evening programs
  • Free exhibitions including Chicago Model City


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