Chicago history is right here.
Following the club’s disbanding in 2007, the building was sold to a developer who planned to tear down the back two-thirds of the building and put up a high-rise. The city did not give permission for this plan; following a series of financial struggles, the building’s future was in limbo. In 2008 the National Trust for Historic Preservation cited the building as one of the nation's 11 most endangered places.
Fortunately, in 2012, a partnership between AJ Capital, Geolo Capital, Agman Partners and Commune Hotels + Resorts began a groundbreaking two-year restoration. Our developers, designers and architects coordinated in painstaking detail with Historic Preservation and Landmarks and the National Park Service to acquire a Class L certification and ensure the improvements were consistent with the original historic character of the building.
Our project employed the skills of over 1,000 artisans and workers, with local artisans and suppliers being used whenever possible. Extensive restoration was required to correct earlier, imperfect remodels and the effects of time. The architectural and structural updates were completed by Chicago’s Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture and the interior design was completed by New York’s Roman and Williams.
At the Chicago Athletic
Did you know?
The Chicago Athletic Association was established in 1890 “to Provide a Setting for Athletic, Business and Social Activities.” Founding members included AG Spalding (of Spalding Sporting Goods), Cyrus McCormick (of McCormick Harvesting Machine Co., nee International Harvester) and Marshall Field (the well-known department store entrepreneur).
- Chicago-based architect Henry Ives Cobb designed the 250-foot Venetian Gothic tower (specifically inspired by the Doge Palace in Venice) to give the club a distinctive identity when viewed from the lakefront. The building was completed in October 1893, just in time for the conclusion of the World’s Columbian Exposition, and the club opened with a full roster of 3,000 members and a 10-year waiting list.
- The Michigan Avenue building is an early example of clay tile fireproofed steel and masonry construction. The Madison Street building (constructed in 1906 and doubled in size in 1926) utilized advancements in fireproofing techniques and was built with concrete-encased steel and masonry. The building was heavily remodeled over the years with additions by Schmidt Garden and Martin, originally in the Vienna Secessionists style with Gardenesque ornamentation.
- The Chicago Athletic Association boasts a long line of athletic achievements, hosting numerous national and touring athletic teams in track and field, cycling, swimming, boxing, baseball, football, marksmanship, and gymnastics. One of our members, William “Pudge” Heffelfinger, was the first official paid professional football player, and at one time in his career commanded a whopping $500 for his skills.
- The Chicago Athletic Association was a men-only club until 1972, at which time 10 out of 200 female applicants were granted membership. The club did not refashion their bathroom and locker rooms for women, so--after the club went co-ed--the ladies took creative license and decorated the urinals with potted plants. Women’s membership grew and in the 1990s the club had its first woman president.
- The Chicago Athletic Association was the only athletic club to survive the Depression by working through their wait list, which diminished from 12-15 years to 4-5 years. During World War II, the club survived in large part due to women’s membership through “widow’s rights,” which many clubs at the time did not permit.
- The Chicago Athletic Association remained a private membership social club for the city’s elite until its closure in 2007.