“On a recent sunny morning, Goudy Square, the small park in the heart of the Gold Coast at Astor and Goethe Streets, was alive with dozens of little children in the company of their parents, grandparents or nannies.
“You could hear their carefree and playful noise across the street where Adam and Victoria Bilter were standing and talking. A sincere and passionate duo, they live on the top floor of the building at 1300 N. Astor but are busy bringing back to life the 8,120-square-foot space that occupies the basement.
“‘We want to preserve the history of this special place,’ says Adam. ‘We are both deeply appreciative of the past and want to be part of the future.’
“This building rose in 1962, the work of revered architect Bertrand Goldberg, who is most famous for creating that iconic structure that is Marina City. This was the Astor Tower Hotel, where The Beatles, among many famous folks, once stayed.
“The basement space became a restaurant through the efforts of the architect’s bright, ebullient wife, Nancy, who opened Maxim’s as an homage to Maxim’s-de-Paris in France, which had opened 70 years before.
“It was as opulent a restaurant as this city has ever known, a stylish Art Nouveau-inspired space, all dim lighting, plush furniture and artful design. It served meals that earned it a place on Life magazine’s list of the top six gourmet restaurants in the country. But it also housed what was then the city’s first discothèque and as late as 3 a.m. some nights, you could find people playing backgammon in its Bagatelle Room.
“It was very popular and a gossip column staple — thanks to high-profile guests and customers including Hollywood royalty and local high-society figures — until closing in 1982. It carried on for a few years, as Nancy let other restaurateurs move in, including the late, hard-to-forget George Badonsky. Nancy died in 1996, her husband the following year, and in 2000, their heirs gave Maxim’s to the City of Chicago.
“A couple of years ago, the Bilters, who then lived a few blocks away, were walking their dogs and ‘We wondered what was beneath that revolving door, down that spiral staircase. We convinced the building engineer to show us and we were amazed,’ says Adam. ‘The more we researched the more we fell in love with the idea that we might be able to bring this place back to vibrant life.’
“Flash forward a bit to earlier this year, when they became the space’s new owners (at a cost of $680,000). They have since been in the process of turning it into the Astor Club, a private club scheduled to open later this year.
“The couple has many ideas for their club: live music, guest chefs and mixologists, charity events, cooking classes, fashion shows, guest speakers, art events. “We are always thinking of something new that we might try,” says Victoria.
Will this work? That’s difficult to say. The Bilters remain optimistic. Walking with them through the space last week, one could see the care they are taking. The massive kitchen has been remade, the other spaces polished and refurbished. They show a visitor the plates and silverware that remain from the past, and lovingly display some of the photos, menus and other materials they have received from former patrons.
“It has been so nice to learn how much people loved Maxim’s,” says Adam. (Kogan, Chicago Tribune, 8/10/22)
Preservation Chicago submitted recommendation for Chicago Landmark designation for both Maxim’s Restaurant interior and Bertrand Goldberg’s Astor Tower building.
Read the full story at Chicago Tribune
Is Chicago ready for another ritzy private club? Well, the Astor Club is coming to the former home of Maxim’s, Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune, 8/10/22
Former Maxim’s De Paris In Bertrand Goldberg’s Astor Tower Set To Become Private Club; Maxim’s de Paris served French haute cuisine and fine wines to an audience of food lovers, politicians and celebrities from 1963 to 1983, Elizabeth Blasius, Block Club Chicago, 1/26/22
Gold Coast space that once housed Maxim’s Restaurant gets new lease on life; The City Council’s Housing Committee agreed to sell the city-owned space and its companion parking area to local resident Adam Bilter and his 24 E. Goethe LLC for an appraised value of $680,000, Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times, 1/18/22
Astor Club Website