|The exterior, before and after renovations (click to enlarge)
The Wilson Club, formerly the Wilson Men's Club Hotel, has just opened as an apartment building at 1124 West Wilson. New tenants are beginning to move in, and leases are available.
The gut-rehabbed building, which now consists of 76 studio rentals and a retail space at street level, has been under renovation for a couple of years now. In 2017, former owner Jay Bomberg sold the building to City Pads, which began the process of finding new housing for the existing tenants before beginning a total restoration of the building.
24 of the new 76 units (32%) are now reserved for low-income tenants, a higher percentage than the 20% promised by City Pads at the time of the sale.
|From "ancient" elevator to modern study area
A new elevator has been installed in the four-story building, making the upper floors accessible to those who are unable to navigate stairs, which is a welcome change. The "ancient" original elevator, which was stuck for decades in the building's basement, has been refurbished and now is a private study area (see above).
The announcement of the building's opening from City Pads is here, including some history of the building and great before-and-after photos.
For years, the Wilson Men's Club Hotel was a remnant of another era, one of two "cage hotels" remaining in the city, with 256 cubicle rooms, some separated only by chicken wire. There was little ventilation, just a couple windows per floor (the reason for the chicken wire). Chicago law requires a minimum of 70sf per living area, but the WMCH was grandfathered in, with some cubicle areas measuring less than 50sf.
As noted above, there was no working elevator, and the hotel was a regular fixture on the housing court calendar, with scores of building violations. During the summers, the extreme heat transformed the upper floors into virtual ovens, and heat-related deaths were not uncommon.
There were some definite improvements made over the past decade, such as the hiring of an on-site social worker and the addition of an air-conditioned community room, but the conditions remained grim.
As a former resident wrote in a comment on Uptown Update,
"This place gave me a roof over my head, and was noisy, loaded with drunks and druggies, with hookers working on Clifton. Thankfully, I was able to get my head out of my butt, and my wife and I moved on.
But for many of the men who lived here, it was the end of the line. I saw, several times over the 4 years, men being taken out on a covered stretcher.
I will never forget the Wilson, but I also never want to go back there or any place like it. [...] The Wilson made me decide that I NEVER want to drink that low again. I quit drugs, alcohol and wild parties, became a MAN, have 3 kids and 8 grandbabies.
But it wouldn't have happened unless I got bottom like I did in this cockroach infested cage hotel, and I use that word REAL loosely.
Glad to see it's being made into something more than the Hotel California. I say that because too many never left."
We're glad to see the 100-plus-year-old building get a new life, and bring new life to the ever-changing streetscape of Wilson Avenue.