One of the more intriguing sites at the 2014 Chicago Architecture Foundation Open House Chicago tour was the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland. The 1916 building is rarely open to the public. It unquestionably meets all the criteria of a stately mansion.
The three-story structure at 1530 North Lake Shore Drive just looks like a consulate: a bit imposing, strong and diplomatic. The exterior is limestone with Italianate features. There are two grand Palladian windows on the front façade.
You enter the town house at ground level into a fairly nondescript ante-room. It’s only when you climb the stairway to the second level that you really get a real sense of the building’s character. This is where the consulate hosts as many as 100 events a year, and where visiting dignitaries come.
On this level, the consulate opens into a sitting area. This is known as the Paderewski Room, named for the Polish pianist, composer and Politian Ignacy Padereswki. A stern portrait of the champion of Polish independence also hangs above the fireplace. Adjoining the Paderewski Room is the Piano Room, where a beautifully-restored 1911 Steinway Model A grand piano stands.
The Piano Room also has a lectern, useful for events and speeches. The remaining large room on this level is the Mirror Room, with a large dining table. There’s no kitchen in the consulate, so for most events the pierogi and kielbasa are brought in from a local Polish caterer.
Before it became the Polish consulate (purchased by the Polish government in 1974), the building was a private residence. It was originally owned by Bernard Albert Eckhardt, a milling industrialist and Illinois state senator. A two-year renovation was completed in 2008, funded by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That’s when it received the Chicago Landmark Award for Preservation Excellence.