Today, the building is a faded curiosity on the Michigan Avenue streetwall, but in 1898, it was described as "a rival in grace and symmetry to the great Palace of the Doges on St. Mark's Square, Venice, and loses nothing by the comparison . . . The interior is magnificent and costly, every atom of material and every article of the equipment being placed with a thought to defy the ravages of time . . . "
The flames burned through the oak paneling, burned up the wood strips that had inserted into the terra-cotta panels that were supposed provide structural fireproofing, causing the tiles to fall and exposing the steel columns to flame. The wood with which the club was lavishly appointed throughout became the pathway carrying fire to the upper floors. The pressure of water from the fire hoses was enough to knock off more of the terra cotta protection. Still, all but two columns on the eight floor resisted deflection from the heat of the flames. The tab for the damages was a then astronomical $200,000. In the end, the building would cost $600,000 but it was still opened in July of 1893, in time for the World's Columbian Exposition.It was 1891, however, the year construction began, that was carved into the building's facade: Anno Domani MDCCCXCI. Not far below, in small lettering invisible from the street, there's another inscription:
The faded grandeur of the Club's facade is like the a dust, the sole surviving residue of the energy that once surged throughout this building, as Chicago's power elite gathered to dream, to plan, to cut deals and an occasional throat, to conspire over the city's future and their personal ambitions, or maybe just get a rubdown and fall asleep, brandy and cigar in hand, in a club chair.
The husk is all that's left. The husk, and a small, hidden tribute to a forgotten man once of great importance.
Very nice entry.
For all the Venetian bric-a-brac, the Athletic Club building still displays its frame, to my eyes at any rate. In this it is not so anomalous on the Michigan Avenue streetwall.
Orchestra Hall is the only building that doesn't reveal the underlying grid in its facade.
Post a Comment