Tag Archives: Chicago Landmarks

The Rebirth of the Swanky Chicago Athletic Association Hotel on Michigan Avenue

There’s a swanky new hotel in town located at the Chicago Athletic Association Building and Annex at 12 S. Michigan and 71 E. Madison. The club’s distinctive 250-foot Venetian-Gothic inspired tower (specifically The Doge Palace), faces Michigan Avenue and was designed by Chicago-based architect Henry Ives Cobb. It was completed in October of 1893, just in time for the World’s Columbian Exposition and the club opened with a full roster of 3000 members and a 10 year waiting list! 

The Madison Street portion of the building was remodeled over the years with additions by designed by  Schmidt, Garden & Martin and was completed in 1907. It doubled in size by 1926.

The Chicago Athletic Association was established in 1890 “to Provide a Setting for Athletic, Business and Social Activities”. The founding members included AG Spalding of Spalding Sporting Foods, Cypus McCormick of McCormick Harvesting Machines aka International Harvester and Marshall Field. The Chicago Athletic Association Building is within Chicago’s  “Historic Michigan Boulevard Landmark District.” The CAA was a men-only club until 1972 at which time 10 of 200 female applicants were granted membership. It remained a private membership club for the city’s elite until it closed in 2007.

In 2008,  The Trust for Historic Preservation, cited the building as on of the nation’s 11 most endangered place. In 2012, the hotel under went a 2 year restoration to retain the original historic character of the building.

I recently took an architecture tour and was amazed and the architectural grandeur of this space! These are some of my favorite features of the hotel:

The Grand Stairwell

The Tank; behind the Grand Stairwell is the former pool

The 2nd floor Drawing Room with 3 working fireplaces and amazing millwork

The 2nd floor Milk Room that serves as a micro-bar at night

The Game Room with the logo of the Chicago Cubs that William Wrigley actually borrowed indefinitely from the club


Chicago Athletic Club 033

There was a plan to demolition significant portions of the structure but keep the gorgeous facade when the elite private club closed in 2007. There has been a recent trend along the Michigan-Wabash corridor of constructing large-scale towers behind the façades of historic structures. Examples include: the Heritage Millennium, the Legacy at Millennium Park (within the Jewelers Row District), and the 80-story tower proposed as part of the YWCA building redevelopment at 830 S. Michigan Avenue.

Book a room at the www.ChicagoAthleticHotel.com

Book a room at the www.ChicagoAthleticHotel.com

Chicago Athletic Club 055 Chicago Athletic Club 057

This magnificent Michigan Avenue historic landmark and annex was saved from the wrecking ball in 2012 by a partnership between AJ Capital, Geolo Capital and Commune Hotels  + Resorts. Let’s thank the Pritzkers for this magnificent restoration of the Venetian Gothic tower designed by Henry Ives Cobb. The building has been lovingly restored to it’s 1893  grandeur. When you look at it from Michigan Avenue, it definitely resembles the Doge Palace in Venice.


Venetian Gothic 250 foot tower designed by Henry Ives Cobb

Venetian Gothic 250 foot tower designed by Henry Ives Cobb

In Chicago, Henri Ives Cobb and his partner Charles S. Frost designed many buildings:

1. Potter Palmer‘s mansion on Lake Shore Drive and the Chicago Federal Building that have been demolished

2. The Chicago Varnish Company Building—listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a Chicago Landmark

3.  The Episcopal Church of the Atonement at 5749 North Kenmore Avenue—also on the National Register of Historic Places

4. The Newberry Library

The meticulous 2 year restoration saved the elaborate millwork, stained glass windows and magnificent mosaic tiles. Chicago Athletic Club 025Chicago Athletic Club 023Chicago Athletic Club 026Chicago Athletic Club 024

In 2008, the National Trust for Historic Preservation cited this 11 story building as “one of the nation’s 11 most endangered places.” Architectural and structural updates were completed by Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture and the interior design was completed by Roman and Williams from New York. The resulting 241 room hotel is jaw-dropping! There are five places to dine in the hotel including Shake Shack on the main floor.

The Grand Staircase

The Grand Staircase

Climb the grand staircase on the first floor and you can see “The Tank” which was originally 40 meters long. The pool became competitively obsolete when Olympic regulations changed to 50 meters.

The Tank is where the former swimming pool was located. It was covered during the 2012 restoration.

The Tank is where the former swimming pool was located. It was covered during the 2012 restoration.

I love 2nd floor lobby with magnificent millwork and carved fireplaces. The largest fireplace is crowned with bas-relief football players

The gorgeous Fireplace in the lobby is surmounted by bas-relief football players.

The gorgeous Fireplace in the lobby is surmounted by bas-relief football players.

Chicago Athletic Club 041 Chicago Athletic Club 042 Chicago Athletic Club 043

To restore the 1890’s German Millwork, it was removed and meticulously catalogued. New electrical wiring was installed and the antique fixtures shine brilliantly in the 2nd floor “Drawing Room.”

Book your room at www.ChicagoAthleticHotel.com

The 2 year restoration project involved building a rooftop restaurant and bar on this magnificent Chicago landmark. Make reservations for www.Cindysrooftop.com for the best Vino Con Vista in Chicago! Cindy’s includes a private dining room, where you can view the Andy Warhol portrait of her.  Cindy’s name is actually Marian; rumor has it that when she was young, her nickname was “Cinderella.”  When John Pritzker opened the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, he wanted to honor his mother by using her first name — Cindy.

Cindy Pritzker by Andy Warhol

Cindy Pritzker by Andy Warhol

The www.ChicagoAthleticHotel.com has an incredible rooftop restaurant and bar:


It’s hard to find a better view from any other outdoor public rooftop in Chicago. It is my absolute favorite Vino con Vista Destination in Chicago! There are amazing panoramic views of Millenium Park, Maggie Daley Park and Lake Michigan from the top of the newly renovated 250 foot Venetian Gothic Tower on Michigan Avenue. Make reservations in advance for Cindy’s rooftop. It is difficult to get into the crown jewel of the hotel that John Pritzker named after his 92 year old mother.

Chicago Athletic Club 076 Chicago Athletic Club 074 Chicago Athletic Club 071 Chicago Athletic Club 070

At Cindy’s, “Executive Chef Christian Ragano, creator of Glencoe’s much loved Guildhall, and former Chef de Cuisine at NoMi, joins forces with renowned Spirit Guide and alumni of The Violet Hour, Nandini Khaund” to enhance the avant-garde culinary adventure.

Cindy's Rooftop

Cindy’s Rooftop

After our architectural tour, we had a delightful lunch. We ordered the Tuna Crudo served over pickled cabbage as an appetizer, the spicy lobster roll with lemon-tobasco remoulade with some lemon meringue pie with white chocolate sorbet for dessert. Follow this link to make reservations at www.CindysRooftop.com. Try to book a table outside by the fire pit if you can.


For more Vino con Vista Adventures check out www.vinoconvistablog.me





Leave a comment

Filed under Italy Travel Guides