Literary Landmark: Chicago Literary Scene, The Cliff Dwellers

Chicago, Ill.
Dedicated: 1995

The Friends of Libraries USA designated the Cliff Dwellers Club in Chicago, Illinois a Literary Landmark on June 23rd, 1995. The historic club was designated as the site of Chicago’s literary Awakening where Louis Sullivan wrote his memoirs The Autobiography of an Idea.

Sullivan wasn’t the only major author to pay his dues at the Cliff Dwellers. The club was founded in 1909 by author Hamlin Garland. He wanted to establish a place where people interested in the arts could get together and discuss. The home of The Cliff Dwellers was, until 1996, in the penthouse of Orchestra Hall on South Michigan Ave. Many famous authors, professionals, and artist were members of the club including John Steinbeck, Ben Hecht, Frank Lloyd Wright, William Butler Yeats, and many more.

Soon after its dedication as a Literary Landmark, the Cliff Dwellers faced demise. They were asked to leave their home in Orchestra Hall in order to make room for a large renovation by the Chicago Orchestral Association. The fight was heated at times, but eventually, the Cliffs were forced to leave the home that had been theirs for so long.

The Cliff Dwellers relocated to the 22nd floor of the Borg-Warner building at 200 South Michigan Ave. – next door to the Orchestra Hall. While the move threatened to break the spirit of the Cliff Dwellers, tradition prevailed and the club still continues to exist even at its new location.


The Cliff Dwellers (website)