“We eat a lot of lunches here—it’s a gathering place for conversation.” That—and a stunning view—is the essence of the Cliff Dwellers. The club atop 200 South Michigan Avenue is a haven and hangout for patrons of the arts. It also was one of the 150 unique locations offered up by the Chicago Architecture Foundation for the 2014 Open House Chicago.
Cliff Dwellers was founded in 1907 by Hamlin Garland, an author prominent in the arts community. Back then, Cliff Dwellers was just down the street, sitting high above Orchestra Hall (220 South Michigan Avenue). The club has always boasted a great view, as it does in its current home where it moved in 1996.
Some members believe the name originally came from the book of the same name. Regardless, if it’s camaraderie you want—and perhaps a drink—Cliff Dwellers is a great place to enjoy them. Even if you’re not meeting a fellow member, the club offers hospitality via its “members table.” Anyone can sit there and, through a bequest from a former member, there’s wine available.
“You don’t have to meet up with people, you know someone will be at the member’s table,” a member told me. “We also have a lot of programming with authors, architects and photographers.”
The club is well-appointed with Mies van der Rohe-designed furniture. It has a fireplace, piano, and outside terrace with a great view. And, as befitting an arts-centric club, there’s a collection of art and memorabilia.
Cliff Dwellers even has an artist-in-residence, Tom Harris, whose architectural photography graces the walls of the club.