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Historic Michigan Avenue Hotel
Welcome to the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, one of the most beautiful landmark hotels in history. Originally built in 1929 as the Medinah Athletic Club, a luxury men's club for members of the Shrine organization, the club fell victim to the stock-market crash and was forced to close its doors in 1934. InterContinental Hotels, renowned for its international portfolio of extraordinary restorations, bought the property in 1988, and immediately began renovations. A quarter of a billion dollars and 12 years later, this truly magnificent InterContinental Chicago hotel was re-introduced to Chicago.
Restoration work was guided by the original athletic club's 1930 yearbook, the SCIMITAR, donated by a club member. Its black-and-white photographs were used to duplicate and restore entire rooms, right down to the detailing in draperies, carpets and murals. Today, each floor of the hotel represents a myriad of cultures and eras. The public areas available for viewing provide a glimpse of the rich history of the building.
- As guests pass through the bronze doorway on Michigan Avenue, they are welcomed by the Shriner's original greeting, etched in marble between two columns: "ES SALUMU ALEIKUM" meaning "Peace be to God," a salutation still used by Shriner's today. At the tops of the two large marble columns are medieval hooded and sleeping knights.
- The four-story lobby features a grand staircase with cast-bronze friezes along the handrail taken from the original Medinah Athletic Club, showcasing a harmonious merging of old-world elegance with 21st-century craftsmanship. The ceilings are painted in dark tones with Celtic and Mesopotamian motifs of the lion, the fish, the eagle and the Assyrian bull to typify the highest powers of nature.
- The Hall of Lions is Assyrian in Design. Many layers of paint were removed during the restoration process as the two marble lions were uncovered with an unusual method known as cornhusk blasting. Since traditional sandblasting would have destroyed the intricate details in the design, actual cornhusks were ground and blasted at the lions to remove the paint while retaining the details in the carving.
- Marble steps lead to an elaborately carved terra-cotta fountain with a backdrop of Spanish Majolica tile. A Shriner's inscription, "All Waters Run into the Sea" flanks both sides of a stone replica of King Solomon's head at the fountain's peak. The family crests of the original founders of the Medinah Athletic Club decorate each step.
- The King Arthur Foyer and Court bring you to a world of knights in shining armor. Knights in colorful uniform line the ceilings of the painstakingly restored arched entryway and guard entry to the Court. Inside, a series of colorful paintings depict the life of King Arthur, as well as scenes of later Christian events and daily life in Gothic times. Elaborately carved wooden beams line the walls, providing a masculine feeling, indicative of their original use as the Men's Smoking Room.
- The Spanish Tea Court was created to the represent the Spanish era of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Its focal point is an ornate fountain lined with the original Spanish Majolica tile. The blue ceiling was meant to represent the sky and create the ambiance of an outdoor tea court. This was one of the few areas in which women were allowed unescorted when the property was the Medinah Athletic Club.
- Beyond the mirrored doors on the west wall is the Renaissance Room. Designed to depict the indulgence and extravagance of the French Renaissance during the era of Louis XVI, this is one of the most opulent meeting spaces in the hotel. The walls are paneled from floor to ceiling with imported Carpathian Elm Burl wood, a wood so rare it would be impossible to replace. Ceiling beams are hand-painted with Renaissance motifs and are lit with the five original Baccarat crystal chandeliers.
- The Grand Ballroom is the site of some of Chicago's most elaborate weddings and events. Located on the seventh floor, with a balcony on the eighth floor, the Grand Ballroom is magnificent for both its unusual elliptical shape and its many architectural details. Around the ceiling of the ballroom are 37 hand-painted murals of classical landscape scenes that were taken down and restored by the same restoration artist who consulted on the restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. He also added 24-karat gold leaf to the moldings surrounding the paintings and the 12,000-pound Baccarat crystal chandelier, which is the largest in North America.
- Directly above the Grand Ballroom is the hotel's famous junior Olympic swimming pool. Although the original athletic club facilities included a gymnasium, running track, bowling alley, golf driving range and archery range, the pool is the only element to survive the many changes over the years. Considered an engineering feat when it was built in 1929 because it was above ground, the pool is 25 meters long, and holds 120,000 gallons of water. It has had many famous visitors, including Olympic gold medalist and Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller.
- The terra-cotta fountain of Neptune on the east wall of the pool area is lined with brilliant blue Spanish Majolica tile. The fish-scaled design windows at both ends of the pool cast a glittering light resembling a school of silvery fish on the water. Rows of seating on the west end of the pool area recall the era when swimming was a spectator sport at the Medinah Athletic Club.
When the InterContinental Chicago opened its doors, it was presented as a gift to the city of Chicago. Since then it has been the recipient of numerous awards for both its architecture and design and has been the scene for important events. The hotel's guests have included international dignitaries, politicians and Hollywood celebrities. We are very proud of our hotel, both for its beautiful décor and the service we provide to match it.