Monday, February 23, 2015

University Club of Chicago
 by: chicago designslinger

 [University Club of Chicago (1909) Holabird & Roche, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In 1899 architects Holabird & Roche designed a group of 3 buildings on Michigan Avenue just north of Monroe Street for the Leander McCormick Estate. In 1906, they were asked to design a building at the northwest corner of Monroe and Michigan for another piece of McCormick land but this time for a different client, the members of the University Club of Chicago.

[University Club of Chicago, 76 E. Monroe Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

McCormick's International Harvester Building was already sitting on the corner property, but the company needed more space and were looking to relocate. The University Club had grown by leaps and bounds since its founding in 1887, and with over 500 members they needed more space than their Dearborn Street clubhouse could provide. A search committee made-up of well connected members had approached the McCormick Estate as early as 1903, but they couldn't come to terms. In 1906, talks started-up again, and this time a complicated 198-year land lease was negotiated with the Estate garnering the McCormick heirs $30,000 for the first 5 years, $35,000 for the next 5, $40,000 for the next 10, and $45,000 for the remaining 178 with a 5% yearly increase.

    [University Club of Chicago, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago/Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

It came as no surprise that Holabird & Roche were picked as the architects for the job, William Holabird had been one of the founding club members. But before any building could get underway money had to be raised in order to build the building and rent the land. So subscriptions were offered to purchase stock in an auxiliary company which was set-up as the legal owner of the building and the lessee of the land. William Holabird joined four other members in pledging a hefty $50,000 to the scheme - the top dollar amount subscribed. With cash in hand it was time to get to work and Martin Roche, the right-side-of-the-brain user in the partnership, looked to England and its 16th century university architectural legacy for inspiration. The pièce de résistance according to insiders was the massive 9th floor dining room, which was said to have been influenced by a 15th century creation, Crosby Hall in London.

  [University Club of Chicago, Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

With gargoyles, crests, and tracery framed windows filled with leaded art glass, the University Club joined with other male-oriented cliques like the Chicago Athletic Association, the Illinois Athletic Club, and the elite, very hard-to-get-into Chicago Club, in creating an evolving wall of architecturally compelling structures rising along a stretch of Michigan Avenue where the street faced Grant Park. The building got great reviews in the press, and became heralded as one of Roche's consummate creations.

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