The Devil is in the Details: A glimpse inside Chicago Athletic Club Hotel

Chicago Athletic Club Hotel . Chicago

A Venetian Gothic gem of a property, modeled after Venice’s – Doge (I’ve been there and I can report, it’s one heck of building), the private club launched itself onto the scene in 1893, in the very midst of the World’s Columbian Exposition – also known as the World’s Fair. The much more modest Chicago Athletic Club was elegant in its own right though. Designed by Chicago Architect Henry Ives Cobb – While he might have made a name for himself in the White City, I would like to point out that Cobbs was born in Brookline, MA, and therefore, I claim some kinship. I wonder too, if of his two preferred styles, Richarsonian Romaneque and Victorian Gothic, Henry Hobson Richardson wasn’t to be richly credited.

I am certain that the private club could fill libraries full of memoirs – outlining the sordid and frightfully interesting tales of the clubs inhabitants, leading up to its closing in 2007.

In AJ Capital and Partners, knight in shining armor fashion, or should we say “light” in shining armor? An ode, to the street lights that dot the tree lined avenues, not only providing the illusion of safety – let us not forget the Devil – but its white clad stucco buildings, making them appear as if they were aglow, once again stepped in to repurpose a landmark, and yowie, did they ever.

The 240 room hotel – open to the public for the very first time, adeptly mixes glamour and grit – pardon my overuse of the word in these past posts. Designed by Hartshorne Plunkard Architects and Roman + Williams, responsible for the breathtaking interiors, this baby has panache. It’s the very type of destination that the bold and beautiful likely clamor to for roof top drinks, to make it official under the White City Ballroom’s, upsidedown cake meringue of a ceiling – stunning, or to fulfill their ballpark bucket list adventure. If you are a fan, Rigley and Fenway are on your list.

I really do believe the devil is in the details. I’m not always focused on every last one of them, but appreciate it when other’s are, and at the Athletic Club Hotel – they sure were. From squash court flooring in the high speed elevators, to pommel horse benches in the guest rooms – you’ll see and feel the history of this storied building, celebrated in its design.

Once Upon a Time: An Adventure in hotels

I love a good story. I love reading one, living one, writing one. It should be no surprise to me that I’ve fallen right into AJ Capital Partners story-telling clutches, and I’m not even attempting to wrestle free. They had me at “counter-culture investors”, or maybe it was “relentless grit and obsessive determination”, or the adventurous journey they promised to take me on.

The Graduate Hotel.

When Chip and Joanna announced that they were making a foray into the hotel business with a Waco, TX location and they were partnering with AJ Capital Partners to do it, inviting me to Google them in their comedic video announcement, wasn’t really necessary. I was so going to check them out anyway, and what do you think I found? If the suspense isn’t yet killing you, it will be. They were the money, and the brains behind The Thompson Hotels, specifically the Nashville location in The Gulch, where I was first introduced to the Rose 45, served up in a brown paper bag – now that is the epitome of grit and sophistication if I ever did see it, and I did, and drank it too.

The Thompson Hotel . Nashville.

No visit to Nashville is complete for me without a stop by the Thompson. I enjoy the lobby, and the curbside restaurant and bar, as much as the rooftop, with it’s panoramic views of the city, and graphic pink tiled floors – the design (interiors created by NYC firm – Parts and Labor Design). It’s a stunner.

From their Graduate Hotel collection, situated strategically in University Towns, and offering a cleverly structured Public/Private Partnership Program called Class, to help institutions finance, develop, and operate a Graduate Hotel on their own campus, eradicating the dreary and dated accommodations so typically offered up on campuses, and elevating them to whole new story and design heights.

May Hosiery . Nashville.

Intent on finding properties that have fallen on hard times, are ripe for development but have been passed over by others for fear of cost, lack of creativity, and/or inability to identify their beneficial supply and demand characteristics – they appreciate the power of a historic building to tell a story, to reinvent itself, to be a major player in the conversation. Consider, May Hosiery, founded in 1908 as a sock factory – which grew out of founder Jacob May’s successful bid to run a sock manufacturing project out of a prison in Nashville. 50 inmates, .50 cents a day made May a rich man before he lost the contract and started his own factory there. May Hosiery Hotel is scheduled to open this year, and if you think the prison workers is the best of the story, hold onto your socks, there’s more – in addition to its title as oldest southern sock company, its distribution of 1M socks a week across the nation in its hayday, the building and the company have a heart. During WWII they provided sanctuary to over 300 Jews fleeing Natzi Germany, in the 60’s and 70’s their socks hitched a ride to the moon on the soles of ALL the Apollo Astronauts, and now is starting it’s next development chapter by housing Apple Music – with a focus on Country – what else, and other makers and innovators like architects, old school barbers and more.

Chicago Athletic Club Hotel . Chicago

Each property polishes the patina off the copper, giving it 21st century shine. The Landmark Chicago Athletic Club Hotel is a kitschy marvel, more on this 240 room hotel tomorrow. The Pontchartrain Hotel is all class and style, sweat and contradictions, music and a menagerie of cultural references, as only a hotel in New Orleans whose clientele included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, Truman Capote, President Ford, and Tennessee Williams who is said to have penned, Streetcar Named Desire while in Residence. “What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.” — beautiful, and no wonder, when you can simply look out your window onto St. Charles Streetcar Line for inspo.

Calistoga Ranch . Napa Valley . CA

These stories and more are the foundation of AJ Capital Partners investments. Oh how I wish I could put my meager pennies in with their own.