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Official Name

Chicago Athletic Association Building


12 S. Michigan Ave.

Completion Date




Use Type


It’s not often that the doors to an exclusive private club are thrown open to the public.

The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel has done just that, painstakingly restoring a landmark that—for more than a century—most people could only appreciate from the outside. 

A home away from home for the elite

The Chicago Athletic Association opened in 1893 amid the boom surrounding the World’s Columbian Exposition. It offered an escape from the city, with all the comforts of a well-appointed home—and excellent athletic facilities for its members to enjoy. Private clubs had long been an important institution among the well-heeled of the East Coast, many of whom found themselves spending increasing amounts of time in the fast-growing capital of the Prairie.

Restoring a Venetian Gothic extravaganza

The CAA is an integral part of the historic Michigan Avenue streetwall, yet its details set it apart. Patterned after the palace of the Doge in Venice, its most notable feature is a course of distinctive, criss-crossing arched windows. Behind the elaborate facade are two lavish lobby levels, the second offering cozy seating clustered around several fireplaces.

The fate of the building was murky when the Chicago Athletic Association closed in 2007. After a few perilous years, a meticulous restoration began, led by Hartshorne Plunkard Architects. Historic interiors were painstakingly brought back to life, and interior architects Roman + Williams brought together of-the-moment interior design with references to (and even reuses of) sporting elements from the building’s past. New high-speed elevators are lined with old squash court flooring, and every guest room has a bench in the shape of a pommel horse.

From boom to boom

The CAA building arose during the boom of the 1890s. Its new incarnation as a hotel is firmly a part of the mid-2010s boom in new downtown Chicago hotels. This ambitious adaptive reuse has created a focal point in the ongoing resurgence of the Loop. The luxurious club atmosphere, with its handcrafted cocktails and game room, is now open for all to enjoy.