The lobby of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. (Credit: Nick Fochtman / Curbed Chicago / Chicago Athletic Association Hotel)
A modern take on 19th century brass beds. (Credit: Nick Fochtman / Curbed Chicago / Chicago Athletic Association Hotel)
International hotel management company Commune Hotels & Resorts—also responsible locally for Hotel Lincoln and Thompson Chicago—took the unique project on. The hotel's 241 guestrooms and suites reference the traditional club rooms found in athletic associations of the past, featuring custom lacquered wooden armoires and bars, Faribault Woolen Mill Co. custom blankets, and a modern take on 19th century brass beds. Each elegantly appointed room features custom Sferra linens, 42" flat screen HD TVs, Carrara marble bathrooms, C.O. Bigelow custom bath products, and vintage boxing-inspired robes. The hotel's mini bars are stocked with locally-sourced items as well as some of Chicago's most well-known confections, including Cracker Jack® and Wrigley gum—invented by Chicago Athletic Association founding member William Wrigley.
The Game Room within the Chicago Athletic Association embraces the spirited play and athletic qualities inspired by the club's historical past. As a focal point of the hotel's public spaces, the Game Room is comprised of classic recreational activities such as bocce ball, billiards, shuffleboard, and chess. The space has been designed to highlight leisurely play, including an installation of vintage pool cues above the bar, a playful mural of athletic characters by LAND—a well-known artist collective from Austin, Texas—and an oversized, original Chicago Athletic Association crest. Within the Game Room, Land and Sea Dept.—renowned for restaurants like Longman & Eagle and Parson's Chicken & Fish—offers a playful menu of imaginative items that nod to familiar concession classics, alongside regional snack and street food favorites. The drink menu includes Beverage Director Paul McGee's take on classic cocktails, a selection of draft and bottled beer, and a curated wine list.
Cindy's, the rooftop bar and restaurant, overlooks the lakefront. (Credit: Nick Fochtman / Curbed Chicago / Chicago Athletic Association Hotel)
The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel has some of the country's best culinary talent behind its unique restaurant and bar outlets, including Cindy's, the hotel's 13th-floor rooftop bar and shared plates restaurant; Cherry Circle Room, a reinvention of the iconic establishment from the original social club; Shake Shack; and a boutique cafe by Vosges Haut-Chocolat, the Chicago-born haute-chocolatier. Another concept, Milk Room, offers an eight-seat micro bar serving elevated cocktails utilizing rare and vintage spirits.
The White City Ballroom includes plaster replicas of the original ceiling. (Credit: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel)
One of the most impressive restorations occurred in the White City Ballroom on the building's eighth floor—a space that offers sweeping views of the parks and Lake Michigan. Working off decades-old photographs, a team of plasterers recreated the room's original ceiling, complete with more than 160 delicately ornamented plaster "stalactites." Though the building offers 17,000 square feet of event space, the White City Ballroom is sure to capture the greatest interest from those looking to marry and entertain.
After less than a week in business, the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel has already earned broad acclaim and a glowing review from Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin, who deemed the project a triumph "not just of historic preservation, but contemporary reinvention." However, even the best words and photographs cannot capture the experience of the Loop's newest hotel. To truly appreciate its grandeur, you need to make a visit.
Check out more photos of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel courtesy of Curbed Chicago and photographer Nick Fochtman.
(Header photo: Nick Fochtman / Curbed Chicago / Chicago Athletic Association Hotel)