Former Chicago Historical Society Building

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Old Chicago Historical Society Building
Chicago Historical Society, 632 North Dearborn Street, Chicago (Cook County, Illinois).jpg
HABS image from 1963
Former Chicago Historical Society Building is located in Chicago metropolitan area
Former Chicago Historical Society Building
Location 632 N. Dearborn Street
Chicago, Illinois
Coordinates 41°53′36.92″N 87°37′47.85″W / 41.8935889°N 87.6299583°W / 41.8935889; -87.6299583Coordinates: 41°53′36.92″N 87°37′47.85″W / 41.8935889°N 87.6299583°W / 41.8935889; -87.6299583
Built 1892
Architect Henry Ives Cobb
Architectural style Romanesque, Gothic
NRHP reference # 78001126 [1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP November 28, 1978
Designated CL February 26, 1997

The Former Chicago Historical Society Building is a historic landmark located at 632 N. Dearborn Street on the northwest corner of Dearborn and Ontario streets near downtown Chicago. Built in 1892, the granite-clad building is a prime example of Henry Ives Cobb's Romanesque Revival architecture. The building was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1997. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, under the name, Old Chicago Historical Society Building.

The building was the home of the Chicago Historical Society after its original headquarters burned down[2] in the Great Chicago Fire,[3] and prior to its relocation to Lincoln Park in 1931. Afterwards, the building housed a magazine publisher, the Works Progress Administration, the Loyal Order of Moose,[2] the Chicago Institute of Design (1946–1956), and recording studios (1950s and 1960s). Since 1985 it has been the location of a series of nightclubs.


From 1985 to 1989, nightclub entrepreneur Peter Gatien operated The Limelight nightclub in the building, one of his chain of nightclubs under that name; at some point he bought the building. In January 1989, Gatien sold the building to Fred Hoffman for $3.5 million. Hoffman spent $1 million renovating the building, and in 1989 opened Excalibur and Vision, two "sister clubs". At the time of their openings in 1989, the two clubs were the largest non-hotel entertainment facility in Chicago.[4]

The northern portion of the building was Vision, which had its own entrance. Vision was a large multi-level, multi-room nightclub that catered to fans of hip-hop, trance, and or house music. Notable guests who played at Vision included Rihanna, MSTRKRFT, Moby, Paul van Dyk, Benny Benassi, Cosmic Gate, Armin Van Buuren, Tiësto, Gabriel & Dresden and Gareth Emery.

On April 24, 2001, it was reported that a waitress for Excalibur, Colleen Gallagher, was tipped $11,000 by a customer who had run up a $60 bar tab.[5]

Excalibur and Vision closed in mid-2012.

On December 31, 2012, after six months of remodeling, the club was re-launched as "Castle Chicago". With a three million dollar remodel replacing decor, lighting, and sound systems, the multi-venue Castle contains three nightclubs, a restaurant, a lounge and a craft-cocktail bar, as well as private party facilities.[6]

The building was purchased by Four Corners Tavern Group Inc. in May 2014 and ceased operation as the Castle nightclub in early January 2015.[7]

Paranormal reports[edit]

  • The Chicago Historical Society Building has been said to be haunted,[2][3] the claim arose from its use as a makeshift morgue for victims of the Eastland Disaster of 1915 although interestingly no bodies were ever brought to the building.[8]
  • The building has been the site of several television shows on the paranormal, and is the site of a weekly theatrical show about hauntings, Supernatural Chicago, hosted by Neil Tobin. An annual seance which attempts to reach deceased magician, Harry Houdini, is presented there by the Chicago Assembly of the Society of American Magicians, partnered with Tobin.
  • In 1999, the building was featured on an episode of Exploring the Unknown on Fox Family TV about the Ouija Board.
  • In 2012, the building was featured on an episode of Ghost Adventures.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ National Park Service (2006-03-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b c Jacobs, Jodie. "Chicago's Most Haunted Places" CBS2Chicago (October 22, 2012)
  3. ^ a b "Haunted Destination of the Week: Excalibur Nightclub" TravelChannel (ndg)
  4. ^ Ziemba, Stanley. "Out of the Limelight, Excalibur to Emerge" Chicago Tribune (June 5, 1989) p.8
  5. ^ "Man Leaves Generous Tip in Nightclub" CNN News (July 12, 2001). Accessed: March 2014
  6. ^ Bernot, Kate. "Excalibur Nightclub to Reopen as The Castle" RedEye Chicago (February 13, 2013). Accessed March 2014
  7. ^ Ori, Ryan. "Castle owner abdicates throne with sale of River North landmark" Chicago Real Estate Daily (May 6, 2014). Accessed December 24, 2014
  8. ^ Selzer, Adam. The Ghosts of Chicago: The Windy City's Most famous Haunts Llewellyn Worldwide, 2013. ISBN 9780738736112. pp.165-167

External links[edit]