t began over a century ago, when a small group of university graduates gathered together in order to establish a meeting place of their own. The State of Illinois granted them a charter in 1887. Their goal was simple – to foster an appreciation of literature and the arts and to create an environment where they, their guests and all future members could draw upon the sustaining values of a common educational experience.
The founders represented a variety of higher education institutions, bringing together unique backgrounds and interests. Among these founding members were Cyrus Hall McCormick Jr., President of International Harvester, Frederic Clay Bartlett, an avant-garde painter and art collector, and William Eliot Furness, an abolitionist credited with creating one of the Union Army’s first regiments of free and former slaves.
The Club first rented rooms in the Henning Speed building at 125 N. Dearborn Street and later purchased 116 N. Dearborn Street which provided accommodations for members during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. In 1906, the present property became available and the Club made plans to move to its final (and current) home at 76 E. Monroe Street, just as Michigan Avenue was becoming a major cultural hub for Chicago.
As vanguards of the Chicago School of Architecture, members and architects William Holabird and Martin Roche presented designs for the new Clubhouse. Although the members had been expecting designs in the style of the adjacent Gage buildings, which Holabird and Roche also designed, the pair returned with a shocking Gothic “skyscraper.” Their design became the first of its kind, and the completed building was occupied by the membership on April 3, 1909.