InterContinental Chicago

Chicago, Illinois | C.1927

Photo Credit: Rachel Gallo

Chicago is a city enriched with a wealth of opulent architecture, and the InterContinental Chicago is a true paragon of the city’s rich history of design. Originally known as the Medinah Athletic Club, it was built as a private club on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and is home to one of the largest hotel pools in the country and the oldest in the city of Chicago.

Commissioned by the Shriners Club, an international fraternity, during a building boom in the United States, it was lavishly designed by architect Walter W. Ahlschlager. The 45-story building was completed in 1929 boasting a miniature golf course on the twenty-third floor, a shooting range, billiards hall, archery range, a two-story boxing arena and a junior Olympic size swimming pool.

At the time, the pool was one of the highest indoor pools in the world, and its fourteenth-floor location was heralded as an engineering achievement. Engineers developed a system similar to the support system used by railroad bridges to support the large quantity of water at the 14-story height.

The area around the pool showcases preserved classic architecture from the 1920s including a terra cotta fountain of Neptune, Spanish hand-painted tiles, marble pillars and stained-glass windows. It is known to many as the Johnny Weismuller pool, a testament to the famous Olympic athlete who trained in its waters.

In 1934 the Shrine Organization filed for bankruptcy protection and lost possession of the building. In the decade after, after a lengthy legal battle, the building was sold to a new developer and reopened as a hotel with larger occupancy. Throughout the years the building went through various incarnations, including a brief stint as residential apartments.

InterContinental Hotels purchased the property in 1989 and completed extensive renovations prior to its grand re-opening in 1990. Today the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile is a member of the Historic Hotels of America, part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Guests experience all the grandeur that the hotel had at its opening in 1929, and it continues pay homage to its rich history.

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