In the architectural wonder that is the Chicago Cultural Center, to see what is arguably the most magnificent Tiffany dome ever created, all you have to do is look up.
The center’s Preston Bradley Hall is home to a 200-foot-diameter dome that is touted as the largest of its kind in the world—and with 1,134 square feet of colorful mosaics, including 30,000 individual panes of glass, the boast seems valid.
Completed in 1897, the dome was designed for the Chicago Public Library by Tiffany’s legendary “chief mosaicist” J. A. Holzer. When the Chicago Cultural Center acquired the gorgeously ornate building 1986, the center also inherited the masterpiece that graced the ceiling of the structure. Though the building was estimated to be worth $2,000,000, the dome alone is currently valued at around $35,000,000.
Originally sunlit, the translucent dome portrays the 12 signs of the zodiac among fish scale-shaped pieces of glass embedded in ornate iron framing. In the 1930s, a protective outer dome was constructed, and while the new backlit appearance was lovely, many felt the dome lost much of its natural beauty.
In 2008, a restoration project renewed the dome’s original, naturally lit charm, saving on energy and repairing the damage time had caused to the complicated glass panels and the 5,568 copper foiled, chipped-glass jewels that were discovered in the process.
Now, more than 800,000 visitors gaze up at the newly restored dome every year, entranced by the new assortment of delightful colors and angles. When you tire of admiring the vastness of the dome in Preston Bradley Hall, you can always head over to the center’s rotunda in the Grand Army of the Republic Hall to view the dome’s smaller, but no less alluring counterpart.
Know Before You Go
The building is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.