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Hotels

Chicago’s Latest Design Digs

Across the street from Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate and the Pritzker Pavilion, a Chi-Town institution is reborn with serious fanfare. JS contributor Heidi Mitchell checks in.

See recent posts by Heidi Mitchell

This summer all eyes are on the Windy City, thanks to the slick hotel reboot of the Chicago Athletic Association. Designed by Henry Ives Cobb in the 19th century, the former sports and social club was for decades a landmark institution that attracted a who’s who of Chicago’s sweater set. Muddy Waters and Duke Ellington played music there, Olympic gold medalist Johnny Weissmuller swam in the pool, and generations of Chi-town socialites danced the night away in the hotel’s ballroom.

Now design duo Roman & Williams (of New York’s supercool Ace Hotel) are breathing new life into the building while preserving its 122-year legacy. A retro sporty vibe remains, in the vintage logo (also used by the Chicago Cubs), the pommel horses at the foot of the beds, the leather wingback chairs, the linen lampshades and mason jars at the minibars. Adding to the wow factor is the grand hotel lobby, with its eye-popping mosaic floor and marble staircase, not to mention sky-high stained glass windows and hand-carved German millwork⎯you can just imagine the lavish parties hosted there.

Just as swanky as the design are the hotel’s extracurricular activities. On the ground floor the boutique Madison Hall sells vintage accessories, including preppy-chic renditions of the original CAA yacht team’s wool sweaters. Then there’s the Cherry Circle Room restaurant, run by the team behind the wildly popular Longman & Eagle, as well as the Game Room, with a playful menu of Chef Peter Coenen’s take on concession favorites and classic cocktails. Upstairs, the soon-to-be-open rooftop bar, Cindy’s, promises to be the city’s hottest hangout, with its backyard barbecue vibe and two firepits. And did we mention there’s a Shake Shack to satisfy the late night munchies?

This is one club you’ll want to join.

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