Chicago Athletic Association

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Chicago Athletic Association

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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.


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