History of our Properties


While we strive to build communities within our clubs, we value the historical impact of the buildings we inhabit have to our neighbors and invest greatly in the preservation of these landmarks.

When you walk into Chicago Athletic Club’s flagship gym at 1723 Benson Ave. in downtown Evanston, you’ll find massive, curious-looking vault doors, antiquated brick and industrial piping throughout. And for more than 85 years, these distinctions haven’t changed.

Built in 1926 as a fireproof storage warehouse owned by the Iredale Storage and Moving Company, 1723 Benson Avenue housed a labyrinth of reinforced concrete and brick curtain walls. It was actually five buildings constructed at separate times, four to eight stories tall, filled with about 600 storage compartments and electric freight elevators.

In the ’70s, the units were said to have contained long-term “dead storage,” (boats, ski equipment, seasonal supplies, etc.), furniture, cars and civil defense canisters, typically containing survival supplies in case of an atomic attack, owned by Evanston residents. The first floor spaces were eventually converted into leasable offices and retail shops still there today.

The Evanston Athletic Club took over the space in 1980, maintaining much of the building’s façade, skeletal structure and interior elements. In 1990, then-manager Pat Cunningham became the owner. Pat Cunningham invested greatly in improvements to the gym when he acquired it, skyrocketing an already-renown gym into the forefront of Chicagoland health clubs—a gold standard of fitness, health and community.

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Lincoln Park

Facilities at 1019 W. Diversey Pkwy have been training athletes of all ages since 1885, wrought by Chicago’s oldest physical education institution, the Lincoln Turner society. The Lincoln Turner gymnasium, formerly the “Turnverein Lincoln,” was expanded in 1922 in the two-story building now owned by Chicago Athletic Clubs, which bought and restored the landmark gym—complete with it’s 60-by 25-foot pool—in 1998.

The Turners were a national organization of about 70 social and athletic groups founded by German immigrants in 1848. Lincoln Turner offered gymnastics, dancing, swimming and weight training instruction and trained many Olympians over the years; think: balance beams, side horses, trapezes, parallel bars, etc. Members—men, women, boys and girls—were proudly called “Turners.”

Since 1924 The American College of Physical Education, an accredited co-ed trade school for coaches, health supervisors and dancing teachers, offered classes here in what was described in ads as an “unusually large gymnasium.” It eventually merged with DePaul University in 1946. So a strong tradition in fitness has been paramount at Diversey and Sheffield for almost 100 years.

Notably in 1889, Turnverein Lincoln was a community meeting place for residents of the township of Lake View and played a pivotal role in Lake View’s appeal to be annexed to the city of Chicago.

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West Loop

Chicago’s most popular basketball court outside the United Center in the ’90s was Hoops the Gym, at 1380 W. Randolph St.—where His Airness, Michael Jordan trained—before Chicago Athletic Clubs purchased the 27,000-square foot building in 2005.

During the peak of the Chicago Bull’s championship era, Hoops the Gym Stadium Club opened in the West Loop in 1996 sporting three full courts with overlooking skyboxes, training facilities and private party rooms. While local colleges and boys and girls clubs would have tournaments, clinics and camps here, the Bulls and other visiting NBA players would practice at the Hoops courts as well.

In 1996, Hoops was the location Spike Lee chose to film a commercial in Chicago and when the Fox Family Channel was seeking actors to play Jordan in their 1998 biopic, they came here to do the casting.

Renowned personal trainer Tim Grover conditioned Jordan and as many as 40 other NBA players like Antoine Walker and Jerry Stackhouse throughout the late ’90s and early 2000s at Hoops. And notably, Hoops was where Jordan played pickup games with the likes of Charles Barkley and other NBA superstars before his 2001 NBA comeback.

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For the better part of a century, 3212 N. Broadway has been heavily traversed community hub—a civic and learning center—most notably as the new Jane Addams Hull House headquarters in the ’60s. Chicago Athletic Clubs bought and refurbished this landmark in 2008.

With roots going as far back as 1914, this four-story building served as a gymnasium, theater and civic center through the ’50s under the name “Butler House” or “Lake View Center.” The Women’s Civic League and the American Legion held regular meetings in the assembly halls while war veterans and servicemen occupied the private athletic club that also featured a large pool, bowling alleys and billiards.

The Lake View Center adopted a new name and community-serving purpose in 1963 when Chicago decentralized and dispersed the facilities at Jane Addams Hull House—the oldest settlement house in the country dating back to 1889. The newly dubbed “Jane Addams Center” acted as the Hull House’s new home base of operations offering the underserved immigrant community cooking, art, dance and theater classes as well as recreational facilities.

Interestingly, a reverence for groundbreaking theater (outside The Loop) is in the building’s DNA too. The community center’s emergent theater classes and productions were eventually organized by the Bailiwick Repertory in the 1980s, by Steppenwolf soon after and then About Face Theatre in the 2000’s.

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Lincoln Square

Before the Chicago Athletic Club became one of Lincoln Square’s newest neighbors at 4662 N. Lincoln Ave in 2011, this location had very similar tenants. And a historically rich public art display.

The building itself was constructed in October 1928, and for the past century seen tenants ranging from furniture and appliance companies throughout the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, to it’s most prominent tenant in the ’70s and ’80s: Northern Home Furnishings, a design studio billed as “Chicagoland’s largest and most complete selection of fine European furniture.”

However, the side of this seemingly quiet building became a concrete canvas in 1991 when Northern Home Furnishings donated its 3,000 square-foot wall facing Lincoln and Leland avenues to then-28-year-old local German artist Lothar Speer for a city-funded public art project. Speer, known for painting murals utilizing 19th century materials, paints and classical techniques, used this opportunity to pay homage to Lincoln Square’s vibrant German community.

Revealed in September 1991 kicking off German Day festivities, “Memories of Germany,” or “the Lincoln Square mural” as it’s referred to now, depicts Brandenberger Gate in Berlin, Liebfrauen Church in Munich, Germany’s Black Forest and Lake Constanze in an old world village scene punctuated by multicultural children playing in the foreground. The project took two months and dozens of local art student volunteers to finish and was hailed by the Chicago Tribune as one of the city’s most important outdoor murals in the city.

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Wicker Park

One of Chicago Athletic Clubs’ newest homes is in the heart of Wicker Park at 1635 W. Division, steps away from hip gastropubs and swanky tattoo-laden hangouts—but the location’s former tenants weren’t exactly neighborhood favorites.

If you peruse the reviews and recommendations of this former US Post Office, you’ll be inundated with frustrated Wicker Park residents citing claims of lost mail and abysmal customer service.

Horror stories include lost mail, unfilled complaints, damaged packages and locals choosing to pay higher private shipping costs to avoid the unfriendly staff. The postmaster relocated the post office in early 2009 due to delivery complains, limiting space and the growing neighborhood.

In 2012, Chicago Athletic Clubs leased and refurbished this one-story building, originally built around 1935.

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