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Another Historic Institution Calls It a Day

By Shannon in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 13, 2007 4:00PM

chicago athletic associationYou may not have known it, but an exclusive club more than an century old lurks inside a quatrefoil-laden building across from Millennium Park. At least, it will for a few more scant months. The Chicago Athletic Association, located at 12 S. Michigan, is closing its doors in mid-May.

Not that those doors were open to just anyone to begin with. With a pedigree claiming Marshall Field, Cyrus McCormick and CAA building architect Henry Ives Cobb as founders, we're pretty sure Joe Average wasn't welcome. Originally started in 1890 as a "gentleman's club" (no, not that kind) where the harried businessman could relax with his fellow stogied peers in a nice sitz bath, the club has hosted Chicago's elite for much of its history. William Wrigley even stole--er, adopted the CAA's logo for his own Chicago Cubs. Despite the good ol' boys motif, the organization loosened its collective ascot in 1974 and admitted its first woman. Today its website touts the CAA as the perfect place for "networking opportunities with prominent professionals" who, by the look of things, consist of a disproportionate number of AOL users. If Chicago's economy seriously starts to go down the crapper, look no further as to why.

Back in November, club members handed over both of the CAA's buildings to an Ohio land developer, who plans to renovate the space for a 185-room hotel. (Good thing they went out of state, otherwise the whole thing would just be torn down.) The dining and fitness facilities will remain intact, becoming part of the grand plan. However, according to the CAA's website, lodging is already provided on the premises to members, albeit in smaller numbers. We're guessing most of the reno will be for modernization. Since the building is reopening without a Chicago Athletic Association moniker, we're not sure where that leaves the club itself, but that's okay. We hear there's a smashing little place in Wicker Park they can try.