Chicago Athletic Association Collection

Identity elements

Reference code

US ILfC SC/065

Level of description



Chicago Athletic Association Collection


  • 1840s-1995 (Creation)


Name of creator

Biographical history

The Chicago Athletic Association first opened in 1893 during the Chicago World's Fair. Architect Henry Ives Cobb designed the building in a Venetian Gothic style. Cobb took inspiration from the Doge’s palace in Venice Italy, using replica pieces of the palace’s facade.

When it first opened its doors, the Chicago Athletic Association had 3,000 members and a 10-year waiting list. Needless to say, it was an exclusive association, so much so that members had to be voted in by existing members. Some of the founding members include Marshall Field, Cyrus McCormick, A.F. Spalding, and William Wrigley. Interestingly, the Association’s “cherry circle” emblem was adopted by Wrigley for the baseball team he purchased in 1905, the Chicago Cubs.

As the Chicago Athletic Association grew, there was a need for expansion. An attached building on East Madison was purchased and opened in 1907. Another expansion took place in 1926. By 1972, women were granted membership status at the club.

With declining membership, the Chicago Athletic Association was forced to close its door in 2007. Wanting to save the building, John Pritzker partnered with AJ Capital Partners, Agman Partners, and Geolo Capital to purchase the property for $13 million in 2012, with plans to restore and convert it into a hotel.

Chicago-based Hartshorne Plunkard Architects led work on the hotel. Also working on the project was New York interior design firm Roman + Williams, construction manager JLL and general contractor, Bully & Andrews.

Managed by Commune Hotels & Resorts, of which Pritzker is chairman, the hotel opened in 2015 and boasts 241 guest rooms and suites, a bowling alley, a game room, a fitness center, as well as retail establishments and restaurants. Many of the interior’s original designs were restored, including the mosaic floors, hand-carved fireplaces, the Circle Bar and White City Ballroom.

The building is a Chicago landmark, as it is part of the Historic Michigan Boulevard District, which received landmark status in 2002.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The Chicago Athletic Association Collection contains a number of governance records, including bound volumes of minutes from Board of Director meetings and annual reports dating back to 1890, committee meeting minutes, as well as bound ledgers with financial records.

Other financial and legal records include income statements, contracts, deeds of trust, safe deposit box records, and files regarding trademarks owned by the Association.

The collection also contains documents related to the Association’s acquisition and sale of art, largely oil paintings.

Additionally, the collection boasts a large number of membership materials. These include bound volumes of membership registers, as well as membership resignations and several binders addressing Association privileges and conduct.

The collection also contains typed correspondence, brochures and programs and historical information about the Association, as well as life membership records.

There is an extensive collection of member photographs dating back to the late 1890s.

Unique to the collection are materials related to Olympic athlete and Association member Joie Ray. These include a poster created in support of Ray, a scrapbook with newspaper clippings of his athletic achievements, photographs, race programs, his Association membership cards, a National Track and Field Hall of Fame certificate from 1976 and one of his race uniforms.

System of arrangement

The Chicago Athletic Association Collection is divided into three series, the first two of which are then divided into subseries. The items and folders within series and subseries have been kept in chronological order as much as possible, although in some instances to give more clarity or to keep bound volumes together they have been grouped by subject matter. Documents and items within folders have been arranged chronologically.

Since quite a few of the volumes of member portraits contained in Series 3 are undated, this series has been organized by volume number and then alphabetically within each volume.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

Physical access

The majority of the bound volumes, including membership records and meeting minutes are in a state of deterioration, resulting in their being quite fragile.

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Languages of the material

  • English
  • French

Scripts of the material

    Language and script notes

    Finding aids

    Acquisition and appraisal elements

    Custodial history

    Donated by Ron White

    Immediate source of acquisition

    Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


    Related materials elements

    Existence and location of originals

    Existence and location of copies

    Related archival materials

    Related descriptions

    Notes element

    Specialized notes

    Alternative identifier(s)

    Description control element

    Rules or conventions

    Sources used

    Access points

    Place access points

    Name access points

    Accession area