Soho House Chicago is located in the Allis Building, a historic five-storey industrial warehouse in Chicago’s West Loop.
The building was commissioned in 1907 by Charles Allis, an influential industrialist, art collector and philanthropist from Milwaukee, as the headquarters of the Chicago Belting Company. Close to the city’s Union Stock Yards, which supplied the raw animal hides for its products, the Allis Building is one of the city’s best examples of concrete industrial loft design.
The Allis’ architect was Lawrence G. Hallberg, a Swedish émigré and pioneer in factory design. He combined large factory floor spaces with decorative touches: terrazzo tiling, an embellished elevator cab, a wrought iron double staircase, and a neo-classical portico at the front entrance inscribed with the building’s name.
From its Chicago headquarters, the Chicago Belting Company quickly became one of the most successful industrial leather producers in the country, opening branch offices in almost every major city in the US. When the leather industry declined in the 1930s and 1940s, the company adapted its production to rubber products for the automobile and aerospace industries.
In 2010, Charlan Hamill, the great-great-great-grand-niece of Charlie Allis, sold the dwindling business to a competitor. Soho House acquired the keys to the property in 2012, and began refurbishment work.
The water tower on the roof, deemed structurally unsound, was removed plank-by-plank, and repurposed as a mural in the lobby. The marble mosaic at the entrance has been recreated, spelling out ‘Allis Building’ as it had done for the first 100 years. The last remaining tannery in Chicago, Horween Leather, has even been enlisted to help design the boxing gym equipment, a little touch that Charlie Allis surely would have appreciated.