Chicago Athletic Association

Chicago, Illinois | C.1893

Photo Credit: @seankm_

The Chicago Athletic Association (CAA) used to be a place for only the most elite Chicagoans. Now, the mantra is “get in here. You’re one of us!” And so we shall.

Designed by architect Henry Ives Cobbs, the CAA’s Venetian Gothic tower was built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, with the idea of making a big impression on visitors who would see it from Lake Michigan. Cobb elected to base the exterior of the Chicago Athletic Association on the Doge’s Palace in Venice to give the facade a distinct identity when viewed from the lakefront.

Some of the association’s founding members included Marshall Field, Cyrus McCormick, and William Wrigley, who would later adopt the club’s C-shaped logo for his Chicago Cubs. The CAA was one of the only big city athletic clubs to survive the Great Depression, but by the turn of the millennium the club’s membership of 3,000 or more when it first opened dwindled to less than 500. With the once-bright facade tarnishing under the strain of more than one hundred Chicago seasons, the building closed its doors in 2007.

With the building’s future uncertain, hotelier John Pritzker purchased the building and began a meticulous restoration led by Hartshorne Plunkard Architects. Historic interiors were 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.

In May 2015, the 125+ year-old CAA re-opened to the public. The name that adorned the outside of the building when it first opened is still intact as an homage to its history.

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