Originally built for the exclusive use of the 3,500 members of the Medinah Club and their guests, the building was criticized for its wasteful extravagance and opened with only 32 percent occupancy. In 1932 the club went into receivership.
Like the Tribune Tower next door this building was the product of a design competition, although in this case the winner Walter Ahlschlager was practically preordained.
Ahlschlager's original design in 1925 called for a wider tower topped with an onion dome and a spire with an Islamic crescent. Below the dome the tower shaft culminated in a wide gable with corner turrets.
The building's design is an eclectic mix of exotic medieval and oriental styles with a very heavy Moorish influence.
The lobby extends seven floors up in a series of exotic themed rooms connected by several small staircases.
The second floor features the Hall of Lions, where two bas-relief lions flank a grand staircase with a small fountain.
One of the lobby's most spectacular rooms is the Spanish Court on the 5th and 6th floors, which features a central fountain and colorfully stenciled gothic arcades at both sides.
At the 8th floor the facade is decorated by three large relief carvings in ancient Assyrian style representing Wisdom on the north wall, Consecration on the west, and Contribution on the south.
The figures in the three relief carvings on the facade depict the faces of club members at the time of the design.
The building's east wall is painted with a giant mural depicting humpback whales swimming.
The building lost several feet in height many years ago with the loss of an ornamental canopy on the small turret north of the dome.
Three Sumerian warriors are carved into the facade above the entrance at the 12th floor, in front of the first setback.
One of the exotic ballrooms is the King Arthur Court, with heavy timbering, stained glass windows, and a frieze depicting stories of King Arthur and Parsifal.
The Grand Ballroom is a 90x100-foot two-story elliptical space decorated with Egyptian, Assyrian, and Greek ornament and surrounded by a mezzanine.
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