If These Walls Could Talk

If These Walls Could Talk

Take a tour through turn-of-the-century Chicago.


If our storied walls could talk, what would they say? The rich history of the building is a great backdrop for our modern take on classic hospitality. There are so many details as you turn every corner – come with us as we go on a virtual tour uncovering all the little facts and details you won’t find in the tour guides.

Originally an athletic club for men. Now for everyone.

Enjoy full and unfettered access to all the architectural details, fine dining and innovative events in modern times as you wander our historic halls. When our building first opened in 1893, even after granting membership to its first 3000 members, the club was so in demand it had a 10-year waitlist. And yes, in keeping with the time, members were all men – women weren’t allowed to be members until 1972.

During World War II, the club survived in large part due to women’s membership through “widow’s rights,” which many clubs did not permit at the time. Thus, it was the only athletic club to survive the times. Women’s membership grew, appointing the first female club president in the 1990s. So ladies, take special care to enjoy yourself. Your time has come. 

‘Flying the W since 1890?’

Whether you’ve stopped by the second floor Game Room for bocce ball or billiards, you may notice a vaguely familiar symbol painted on the wall behind the court (also echoed in details throughout the hotel). The red encircled ‘c’ symbol is the original logo of the Chicago Athletic Association (also referred to as the ‘cherry circle logo’). In 1916 the symbol adopted more patriotic colors in support of American Involvement in WWI. In 1917, it was adopted by longtime club member William Wrigley as the logo for his (and everyone’s) beloved baseball team – the Chicago Cubs.

Come for a burger – or a bath?

What is now an iconic place for burgers and fries in Shake Shack was once the men’s Turkish baths. Don’t forget to look down at the intricately hand-laid tile and ponder the age-old question: are fries always more delicious when eaten standing on a work of art?

Yes, we’d like some ‘milk’ please.

Book yourself a reservation at our award winning eight-seat micro-bar, Milk Room, voted one of the best bars in the world. Once a Prohibition-era speakeasy, Chicago’s movers and shakers would sneak themselves over to this hidden gem to enjoy a little post-fitness libation. And it wasn’t the dairy kind.

The Italy of the Midwest.

When viewed from out on Lake Michigan, our Henry Ives Cobb-designed 250-foot gothic tower was inspired to resemble the Doge Palace in Venice. It opened just in time to give guests attending the World’s Columbian Exposition, which was just concluding in Jackson Park, the perfect view. Incidentally, before being restored to its former glory in 2015, the entire building leaned 14 inches from North to South – much like a certain tower in Pisa.

An affectionate nickname for an interesting space.

Today in The Tank (our space on the first floor that in its previous incarnation was a pool) you’re more likely to find yourself swimming through sweat from your pickleball game or art from an SAIC exhibit, but, fascinating fact, athletic club members gave it this affectionate nickname when Olympic regulations increased pool size to .50 meters, making the pool size competitively obsolete.

Take that, Chicago January.

Back in its previous incarnation as a fitness club, members would often build their own golf links for winter practice on the 9th floor. No strangers to what a Chicago winter could do to their competitive golf game, we feel they’d be quite pleased were they around to experience the first-of-its-kind Topgolf Swing Suite.

The mother of all puzzles.

Among the second floor Drawing Room’s meticulously restored architectural details you’ll notice an extraordinary amount of millwork that dates to the 1890s. To restore it, teams of local artisans over our multi-year renovation removed and cataloged each piece, ran lighting and electric behind each section, and meticulously replaced it all. Voila – a historically intact Drawing Room with three fireplaces AND a place to plug in your laptop. 

Ready to come experience the history for yourself? Explore our special offers and plan a trip to come see us soon.