Driehaus Museum celebrates major milestone in expansion with beam installation

It was a great day for lovers of Chicago architecture and history, as the Driehaus Museum marked a major milestone in its expansion.  

Wednesday morning, construction crews raised a 12-foot steel beam: the final beam to be installed in the renovation of the Driehaus Museum's brand-new auditorium space at the adjacent Murphy Auditorium.

"Today is a momentous day for the Driehaus Museum," said Executive Director Lisa Key.

The Driehaus acquired the adjacent Murphy Auditorium at 50 E. Erie before its founder's death.  

It's an ornate 1926 French Renaissance-style building that will add roughly 30,000 square feet to the museum's facilities.

"[It's] a really grandiose building," said Ward Miller, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago.  "When you look at the structure, and you walk inside you almost feel like you've been transported to another place. It has a very Parisian feel to it."

"This will allow us to do additional programs, exhibitions, performances, movies and also a benefit to our community because we can have more open evenings and a more full experience for our museum," said Key.

If you're unfamiliar with the Driehaus's main building, it's also a landmark, the Nickerson Mansion, which is full of art and artifacts from the Gilded Age. 

Walk in, and you walk back in time.  

"It's as if the door closed one day, and you opened it up, and you see how we would've lived in the 1870s in Chicago," said Key.

Key said Wednesday's beam installation marks the mid-point of the renovation and expects the auditorium expansion to be complete and open to the public by the Spring of 2024.