Michigan Avenue just north of the Chicago River is architectural eye candy. There’s the gleaming white Wrigley Building on the west, the Tribune Tower with its flying buttresses on the east, and beyond that is the InterContinental Chicago, an art deco skyscraper with a distinctive yellow dome. That dome is the crown of a madcap building that’s the embodiment of the organization that created it.
In the midst of the roaring twenties, Chicago’s Shriners decided they needed their own athletic club. Sure, they could have gone to the Chicago Athletic Association, but that was filled with fuddy-duddies and the Shriners were anything but. An offshoot of the Freemasons, the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, as the group was officially known, was all about having fun. As in, that’s why the order was created in the first place. In the 1870s a small group of New York Freemasons, including actor Billy Florence and Walter Fleming, M.D., felt that the fraternity, while worthwhile, was a bit too stoic for their tastes. After attending a party hosted by an Arabian diplomat during a trip to France, Billy was inspired by the event’s “exotic style, flavors and music.” When he got back home he suggested an Arabic theme to Walter. The good doctor, who was savvy in the ways of Freemason rituals, agreed, and between the two they created their own fraternity based on fun, fellowship, and philanthropy. They weren’t complete rebels, though—you had to be a third-degree mason before you were eligible to become a Shriner.
Read more about this landmark in Living Landmarks of Chicago.
Architects: Walter W. Ahlschlager
Address: 505 N. Michigan Ave.
Sources for Medinah Athletic Club (InterContinental Chicago)
This is a selection of specific sources used to provide details while researching this landmark. Additional sources, including books and websites, can be found on the Resources page.
- Chase, Al. “Designs for Frontenac and Medinah Ready.” Chicago Tribune, 26 Sep 1926.
- Gapp, Paul. “One Club, Two Hotels.” Chicago Tribune, 16 Jun 1991.
- Historic Preservation Education Foundation, et al.. Preserve And Play: Preserving Historic Recreation And Entertainment Sites. Washington, DC: Historic Preservation Education Foundation, 2006.
- Inside Chicago Walking Tours
- “Inside the Secret World of Freemasons.” CBS News, 8 Dec 2013.
- Medinah Shriners
- Rodkin, Dennis. “What’s that Building? Medinah Temple.” WBEZ Chicago, 19 Sep 2018.
- Winslow, Charles Spaulding, 1876-. Historical Events of Chicago. [Chicago, Ill.: Soderlund Printing Service, 1937.