The old Chicago Motor Club building, which reopened Tuesday as one of the classiest links in the architecturally déclassé Hampton Inn hotel chain, is not the biggest or the most prominent of Chicago’s Art Deco towers. But it is surely one of the city’s most winningly self-contradictory buildings — a short building that’s about being tall.
All of Art Deco’s defining characteristics are compressed into this fabulous, 15-story package just west of Michigan Avenue: A trim silhouette with strong vertical lines; stylish geometric decoration; and a superb integration of art and architecture, especially in the lobby where a freshly restored mural map of the continental United States reigns with regal understatement.
Thank goodness such irreplaceable visual richness is still with us. For years, the old Motor Club faced demolition, and was hanging by a thread.
Then, developer John T. Murphy, president of Murphy Asset Management, and a team of designers pulled off a $41 million recycling job that transformed the former “temple of transportation” into a 143-room hotel.