Swinging onto Van Buren, I pass beneath the old Chicago Club. I like the look of this old building, its dull red stone still crisp and glowing with a peculiar patina. When I was younger, I would have thought its strangeness ugly, but now it’s one of my favorite buildings.
The club is one of the city’s oldest institutions. It was founded in the 1860s, when Chicago was very small and young. Like many of Chicago’s institutions, though (like the Board of Trade or the federal court), the club has occupied a succession of different homes. The current clubhouse dates from 1929.
Its location on the corner of Van Buren and Michigan is where the previous clubhouse also stood. Between 1893 and 1929, the club occupied the old Art Institute building, which Burnham and Root had designed. You can see a wonderful photograph of that old building here.
Around the time of the Columbian Exposition, the Art Institute moved to its current location, and the Chicago Club purchased the Van Buren building. After several decades of occupancy, the club decided to remodel the building, and, while the remodeling was underway, the whole thing collapsed!
The only bright aspect of this catastrophe was the fact that it did not occur on a weekday when the Club was populated, for a large part of Chicago’s business leadership could have been killed or . . . injured.
This assessment is from the club’s website, where I also learned that the Burnham and Root-designed doorway from the old building was saved and incorporated into the new one. The old building was so beautiful that it was ostensibly referred to as “the gem of the Avenue.”
I like to think of all this as I pass by.