Chicago Historical Hotels

by Mary Freeman

In the 1920s and '30s, Chicago was one of the country's cultural epicenters. Many of the buildings from this time still stand today. Whether it’s a new hotel housed in a historic building or accommodations that survived the Great Depression, guests have more than a few chances to rest their heads amid history.

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Notable Guests

Since its opening in 1926, the Ambassador East Hotel has been a hotspot for celebrities, such as President John F. Kennedy, Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant. The hotel's restaurant, the Pump Room, which serves light meals, is a historical attraction of its own. Since its opening in 1893, the Congress Plaza Hotel has been a political favorite. The hotel has seen the likes of former Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson. The giant hotel, which once had 1,000 rooms, has downsized to 850 guest rooms and 36 suites.

Chicago Firsts

Built in 1920, the Drake Hotel was Chicago's first to have air conditioning and color televisions. Today, the hotel, at the top of the Miracle Mile, offers amenities such as a 24-hour business center and fitness facility. In 1924, the Allerton Hotel rose to fame as Chicago's first high-rise. Large events are welcome at this upscale hotel, which has a 12,000-square-foot meeting room and two ballrooms. Guests enjoy marble bathrooms, Sobella terrycloth robes and 325-thread-count sheets. As the longest-operating hotel in North America -- it was originally built in 1871 -- the Palmer House Hilton has gone through many changes and was once rebuilt from the ground up. The top executive floor is a "hotel within a hotel," as guests receive special amenities such as private elevators, concierge and check-in.

Renovated Hotels

A relic from 1928, the Whitehall Hotel had a $6 million face-lift in 2006. European design and decor flow throughout the hotel. The restaurant serves pan-Italian cuisine; the Beatles once had a drink at the restaurant's lounge. When the Inn of Chicago first opened in 1928, it had a considerable price tag for its time: $3 million. In the 1980s, an additional $13 million was invested in the hotel. The hotel's Sky Suites, on the 22nd floor, have vistas of the Chicago skyline, Lake Michigan and Michigan Avenue.

Green Hotels

The 1896-built Silversmith Hotel still has its lobby's original marble mosaic, marble and cast iron grand staircase, and classical relief ceiling. The hotel is a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association and has a Green Seal certification. A 1999 partnership between the city of Chicago and Kimpton Hotels led to the conversion of the Reliance Building, a National Historic Landmark built in 1895, into the Hotel Burnham. Another Green Seal-certified hotel, it provides a discount for guests arriving in a hybrid vehicle.

Others

Rumored to have been associated with the Chicago underbelly during the '20s and '30s, the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel today is known for its decadence and opulence. The original illuminated dance floor and 25-foot-tall domed ceiling, which attracted guests when the hotel opened in 1927, remain. The four-star Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel features an art collection of 1,400 works, all created by Chicago artists. The landmark hotel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has been a backdrop in movies such as "The Untouchables," "The Hudsucker Proxy" and "The Color of Money."

About the Author

Mary Freeman is a freelance writer. She has held several editorial positions at the print publication, "The Otter Realm." She traveled throughout Europe, which ultimately resulted in an impromptu move to London, where she stayed for eight months. This life experience inspired her to pursue travel writing. Freeman received a degree in human communication from California State University.

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