Many Chicago visitors traipse up and down Michigan Avenue with perhaps not much a glance at the city's beautiful architecture beyond the landmarks of the Wrigley Building or the Tribune Tower. In fact, several notable works of historic architecture lie along the Magnificent Mile. Here are a few lesser-known buildings that deserve some architectural attention.
At the beginning of the Mag Mile, you will find a bridgehouse. The Bridgehouse is exactly what it sounds like - a house-like structure at the Michigan Avenue Bridge. As a little girl I often wondered who lived in these dark-looking homes at the bridge. I imagined a troll-like man who never stepped out. No one really lives here.
Today the bridgehouses are still quite functional, but really only utilized when the bridge is being lifted up or down. The southwest bridgehouse holds a museum that tells the story of the Chicago River and Chicago's many bridges.
The Palmolive Building
The Palmolive Building gets no attention sitting right next to behemoth of the John Hancock Building, but this seemingly standard office building has some debaucherous history to it.
For years after it was built in the late 1920s, this art deco skyscraper dominated the Chicago skyline in this part of town. And many years later, it astounded people not for its height but for a giant lit-up sign on top - it was two bunny ears. Hugh Hefner's first playboy club was a tenant of the Palmolive Building. This place in the ‘60s represented sexual revolution and decadence for some, sin to others, and sexism to others still.
Known as the Playboy building from 1965-1989, it was originally the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet corporation, makers of toothpaste and soap.
Women's Athletic Club
When Cartier, the jeweler, chose the store's location on the Mag Mile, they were strategic with their choice of a very special historic building, insisting they be close to their clientele. The posh Women's Athletic Club, a private club that dates back to the 1800s, built this 8-story building in the late 1920s at the corner of Ontario Street, and Cartier has the storefront space.
When you look at the building you will see feminine details with curved arches, fine lines in the stone, and the linens of the curtains inside. If you are a princess who has visited Chicago, you would likely be familiar with the Beaux-Arts style dining rooms and swimming pool of this private club.
For more stories behind the buildings of Chicago, we recommend an architectural tour of the city.