On the north side of the Chicago Cultural Center architecture is Greek-inspired with strong angular structures and military-influenced decorations. From the curving marble staircase an outdoor garden and sculpture can be viewed. At the top of the stairway is the 45-foot by 50-foot Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Rotunda. The ceiling is embossed with plaster carvings of swords, shields, helmets, and flags. This ornamental heraldry serves to remind viewers of the loss that comes with war.
The 40-foot-diameter stained-glass dome in shades of tan, beige, and ochre is now lighted electrically. It was originally illuminated by sunlight. The stained glass was made by Healy & Millet of Chicago. It is held by cast-iron ribbing, manufactured by the Winslow Brothers of Chicago. A floor inset with glass blocks originally provided natural light from the dome to the first floor below.
The immense G.A.R. Memorial Hall is just beyond the Rotunda. It measures 53-feet long, 96-feet wide, and 33-feet high. Leased to the Grand Army Hall and Memorial Association between 1898 and 1948, it was a meeting place for members of the G.A.R. Today, the collection of Civil War artifacts once displayed there is now preserved at the Harold Washington Library Center. It is used for ceremonial and artistic purposes, including weddings.
In 1972, the building earned landmark status and in 1976, it earned Chicago landmark status.
Information source: The People’s Palace