It’s a adorable little bequest to a time aback Henry Ford was axis out Model A’s on his accumulation curve and architects were adulatory apparatus technology with the exuberant, automated forms of Art Deco.
The old Chicago Motor Club building, which reopened Tuesday as one of the classiest links in the architecturally déclassé Hampton Inn auberge chain, is not the better or the best arresting of Chicago’s Art Deco towers. But it is absolutely one of the city’s best winningly casuistic barrio — a abbreviate architectonics that’s about actuality tall.
All of Art Deco’s defining characteristics are aeroemism into this fabulous, 15-story amalgamation aloof west of Michigan Avenue: A trim contour with able vertical lines; beautiful geometric decoration; and a superb affiliation of art and architecture, abnormally in the antechamber breadth a afresh adequate mural map of the continental United States reigns with august understatement.
Thank advantage such irreplaceable beheld affluence is still with us. For years, the old Motor Club was blind by a thread.
Developer John T. Murphy, admiral of Murphy Asset Management, and a aggregation of designers accept pulled off a $41 actor recycling job that transforms the aloft “temple of transportation” into a 143-room auberge that bears little affinity to the all-encompassing boxes Hampton Inn builds forth the nation’s highways.
It’s allotment of a broader Chicago trend that has angry several celebrated landmarks into hotels. Among them: the Reliance Architectonics (the Auberge Burnham), the Carbide & Carbon Architectonics (the Hard Rock Hotel); the Old Dearborn Bank Architectonics (Virgin Auberge Chicago); and the Chicago Athletic Association, set to reopen as a auberge on May 27. The old Majestic Building, additionally home to the Bank of America Theatre, was ahead adapted into a Hampton Inn.
While the Motor Club advance is hardly impeccable, its celebrated appearance will contentment architectonics and auto buffs, as able-bodied as those who already ventured into the architectonics for TripTiks, the attenuated cast books in which anniversary folio covered a amplitude of artery and acicular out gas stations, hotels and the casual campground.
“This was a little adulation song to the abandon to biking about the country in your car,” said Paul Alessandro, a accomplice at Chicago’s Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, one of the firms that formed on the project.
Built in 1928 at 68 E. Wacker Place, the diminutive, steel-framed architecture served as the address of the Chicago Motor Club, which pushed for acceptable roads, provided emergency abetment and excelled at alms avenue admonition to the ever-rising cardinal of bodies affairs cars.
The aboriginal architects, Chicago’s Holabird & Root, angry out aloft Art Deco skyscrapers, like the Chicago Board of Trade Architectonics at the bottom of LaSalle Street and the Palmolive Building, a battleground for drivers on Lake Shore Drive. But what the Motor Club lacked in acme and girth, it fabricated up for in pre-Digital Age interactivity.
Motorists entering its light-filled, barrel-vaulted antechamber would band up at counters to get alley maps and biking advice. Beyond the antechamber was a abundantly scaled mural map by artisan John Warner Norton. The map’s glassy geometric curve best up breadth those of the architectonics larboard off. Its calm naturalistic palette appropriate that drivers wouldn’t be acquisition nature; they’d be immersing themselves in it. This adept diagram was an allurement to travel, not a ambagious labyrinth.
For added than a decade, though, the old Motor Club’s affairs were as austere as Chicago’s red-ink-stained antithesis breadth is today.
The aftermost tenants confused out in 2004. In 2006, developer Sam Roti floated a plan to breach bottomward the architectonics and the adjacent Christian Science abbey on Wacker Drive. In 2011, afterwards a adventure led by Roti bootless to catechumen the architectonics and a abandoned aing acreage into a Virgin Hotel, it was awash at a court-ordered defalcation auction. The City of Chicago clearly conferred battleground cachet on it in 2012.
Finally, Murphy cobbled calm a accord with the moderately priced Hampton Inn chain, a analysis of Hilton. It was absorbed by federal celebrated canning tax credits and the Cook County “Class L” provision, which decidedly lowers acreage taxes for certified celebrated rehabs.
At a time aback banal accommodation high-rises are muscling their way assimilate city streets, this adjust offers passersby much-needed beheld delight.
Freshly bankrupt limestone and terra cotta walls accompany out such as antic capacity as a bird munching on flowers. Thin cast-iron piers framing the entrance, corrective atramentous and silver, acceleration like mini-skyscrapers. The Motor Club’s Art Deco logo, which appearance a “C” intertwined with a red star, is aback (though it needs straightening). You can attending through the bottle roof of a new access awning and booty in the advancement ambit of the building’s accedence front.
That able verticality is accentuated by the aphotic hues and accumbent window bands of a Hilton Garden Inn that’s beneath architecture aing door. Credit Chicago’s GREC Architects, designers of the Hilton, for that able contrast.
True, there are some arresting faults, like an access awning that lacks the clarification of its analogue at the Hard Rock Auberge beyond East Wacker Place. Another blemish: A cheesy, red-and-white Hampton Inn assurance on the canopy. Thankfully, it’s alone temporary. The final adaptation of the canopy, which will arm-twist the aback end of best cars, is either activity to be actual air-conditioned or actual kitschy.
As if to compensate, the advance reminds us that Art Deco was about added than apparent decoration. It offered bracingly affected delineations of space.
New windows amid the skyscraper-like cast-iron piers acknowledge the admirable amplitude of the old Motor Club’s high-ceilinged antechamber and an affected Art Deco chandelier that seems to float aloft it. These elements aggravate you inside, breadth the architects accept teamed with the Chicago appointment of Gettys One autogenous designers and mural apology able Dmitri Rybchenkov, of the Chicago close Apology Division, to actualize an able mix of accomplished and present.
There are some accessible crowd-pleasing touches, like a 1928 Ford Model A, bought off the Internet, that sits on a balustrade at the lobby’s far end. A affluent arrangement of adornment on the lobby’s walls, including ribbons of ablaze accessory and nickel-leafed adhesive eagles, has been beautifully buffed.
The key, though, is that the lobby’s blush palette has been retuned afterwards years of rehabs played calamity with its beheld harmony. With taupe-colored walls, as able-bodied as blooming and atramentous terrazzo floors, aback in place, the abatement hues of the mural map abound organically from the antechamber instead of akin a allotment of art ashore on a white wall.
Rybchenkov’s accurate apology of the map not alone smooths sections of the allotment that had amorphous to coil like old cheese. It additionally restores the map to its aboriginal amplitude of 33 anxiety by accumulation a band on the appropriate bend that had appear off and had been put in storage. That enhances the map’s adeptness to arm-twist the all-embracing spaces of a all-inclusive continent.
Hotel guests and the accessible will be able to booty in the brightness from a amply chaste bar that replaces the old Trip-Tik counters. A new basement area, with high-backed banquettes and acceptable chairs, creates a faculty of acquaintance aural the big amplitude — a allowance aural a room.
Despite the map’s advancement of amaranthine space, bedfellow apartment are baby at an boilerplate of 320 aboveboard feet. The upper-floor décor is Hampton Inn standard, aggressive somewhat by Art Deco-style ablaze sconces and road-themed allowance signs.
Behind the banal walls, though, are new automated systems that will prolong the activity of this gem for years to come. So beachcomber a checky banderole for the accomplished apology of the old Chicago Motor Club. Its once-troubled architectural adventure has taken a beginning and aesthetic turn.
Kamin is a Tribune critic.
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