The Steuben Club, Illinois

Steuben Club 1
The dramatic two-story Steuben Club Dining room, known as the ‘Ballroom’, has been preserved and now houses the building’s fitness center.
Background: The Steuben Club Building in Chicago, Illinois is a terra cotta-clad skyscraper, designed in the Gothic Revival style with pointed arches, tracery, buttresses and finials. It has a twenty-seven story base, topped with a slender, eighteen-story polygonal tower terminating 463 feet in the air. Designed by architect Karl Vitzhum, the building served as the Chicago headquarters of the Steuben Society of America, a national organization of Americans of German descent, founded to educate the public on the patriotic contributions of German-Americans and to encourage them to take an active role in civic affairs. The clubhouse was located on the upper floors while retail and professional office spaces occupied the lower twenty-one floors. The Steuben club had an opulent dining room, club rooms and recreational facilities that included a swimming pool. In the 1950s, long after the Steuben Club itself had ceased to occupy the building, new owners refaced the lower stories with granite and modernized many of the interior spaces.
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The exterior terracotta suffered from years of deferred maintenance. Using the original terracotta shop drawings, the ground floor terracotta, which had been removed in the 1950s, was accurately reproduced.
The building’s upper floors, however, continued largely in use as offices, and the fitness facilities and swimming pool created for the Steuben Club remained in use as health club facilities. In the 1980s the terra cotta was aggressively cleaned and nearly all historic finishes in the lobby were removed. In 2001 as pieces of terra cotta began falling from the tower, the surrounding streets and the nearby CTA were temporarily closed while protection canopies were constructed and emergency repairs undertaken. The repair campaign eventually forced the owners into bankruptcy and the building again was sold.

In 2005, a $146.6 million rehabilitation was undertaken converting the historic office building into multi-family housing using Federal historic tax credits. Work included extensive repair, replacement and restoration of the terra cotta and the creation of 312 apartments, including studio, convertible, one and two-bedroom, and penthouse units, with 62 of these units designated for affordable housing. The rehabilitation also provided over 20,000 square feet of retail, restaurant, and office space. Although the building had undergone extensive changes over the years, preservation of historic features and finishes was still possible on many of the upper floors including terrazzo floors, marble wainscoting, plaster ceilings, doors, transoms, and surrounds. The grand two-story dining room known as the “Ballroom” on the 24th and 25th floors and the natatorium on the 27th floor were also preserved. The completed work on what is now known as the Randolph Tower City Apartments met the Secretary of the Interior Standards of Rehabilitation and the building became a certified rehabilitation in 2012. Owners also followed the National Green Building Standard created by the National Association of Home Builders, which is equivalent to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program.

Last updated: October 12, 2017