Thursday, March 3, 2016

Illinois Athletic Club: 1931 Ladies Admission Card

From 85 years ago, in 1931, this was my great-grandmother's admission card to the Illinois Athletic Club in Chicago.

At the time, she was living in Hammond, Indiana, about 25 miles away. How often she actually visited the Illinois Athletic Club is something we don't know. It's most likely that she went there for socializing and dining. And it's possible that she bumped into Tarzan and/or the Lone Ranger at some point!

Here are some historical tidbits about the IAC that I dug up:

  • The Illinois Athletic Club was founded in 1904. It survived more than three-quarters of a century; its sale and liquidation was finalized in 1986.
  • The IAC's 18-story Beaux-Arts building, located at 112 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago, was constructed between 1907 and 1908. It had a full gymnasium, a basement pool, steam rooms, racquetball courts and dining areas.
  • The IAC sponsored a basketball team, the Armour Square Cornells, from about 1914 until 1920.
  • Among those who frequented the club were Johnny Weissmuller (pictured at right, as Tarzan) and Clayton Moore.
  • Swimming was a big there deal. According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago:
    "In 1912, Bill Bachrach became swimming coach at the IAC, which dominated competitive U.S. swimming for the next decade. The IAC continued to produce champions up through the 1920s, including freestyler Johnny Weissmuller, one of the world's all-time greatest swimmers. When the AAU began sponsoring women's swimming competition in 1916, Bachrach worked assiduously with female swimmers. His most notable protégées were two 1924 Olympic champions, backstroker Sybil Bauer and freestyler Ethel Lackie."
  • Around 1984, according to this article by Russell Gottwaldt, the 112 South Michigan Avenue building was purchased by Charles Vavrus, who spent $25 million renovating and adding six floors to the building, thus creating the Charlie Club and Fitness Center. The club, which catered to the wealthy, had two restaurants and squash courts, in addition to the building's earlier fitness amenities. But it would remain under Vavrus' ownership for less than a decade...
  • In 1993, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago purchased the building. It was soon turned into the school's first dormitory, Wollberg Hall. After that, according to the SAIC:
    "Shortly after the residences opened, the building's historic ballroom was restored and now hosts many public and school events. As SAIC acquired more buildings, the residences at Wollberg Hall were converted into classroom spaces, and the building is now known as the MacLean Center, named after donors Barry and Mary Ann MacLean. It houses offices, classrooms, and graduate studios for many academic departments in addition to a small cafeteria and student lounge."

1 comment:

  1. Hammond, Indiana. Home of Jean Shepherd. Did your grandmother ever bump into him?