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Palmer House

Palmer House

Overview
The Palmer House Hilton is a famous and historic hotel in downtown
Downtown
Downtown is a term primarily used in North America by English speakers to refer to a city's core or central business district ....

 Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

.

There have been three Palmer House Hotels at the corner of State and Monroe Streets in Chicago.

The first (known as "The Palmer") was built as a wedding present from Potter Palmer
Potter Palmer
Potter Palmer was an American businessman who was responsible for much of the development of State Street in Chicago.-Retailing career:...

 to his bride Bertha Honoré
Bertha Palmer
Bertha Palmer was an American businesswoman, socialite, and philanthropist.- Biography :Born Bertha Matilde Honoré in Louisville, Kentucky, her father was businessman Henry Hamilton Honoré...

. It opened on September 26, 1871, but burned down just thirteen days later October 9, 1871 in the Great Chicago Fire
Great Chicago Fire
The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about in Chicago, Illinois. Though the fire was one of the largest U.S...

. Palmer immediately set to work rebuilding, and with a $1.7 million signature loan (believed to be the largest individual loan ever secured at the time) constructed one of the fanciest hotels in post-fire Chicago.

Designed by architect John M. Van Osdel
John M. Van Osdel
John Mills Van Osdel was an American architect who is considered the first Chicago architect. He is considered a peer of the most prominent architects in the history of Chicago...

, the second Palmer House Hotel was seven stories.
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Encyclopedia
The Palmer House Hilton is a famous and historic hotel in downtown
Downtown
Downtown is a term primarily used in North America by English speakers to refer to a city's core or central business district ....

 Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

.

History


There have been three Palmer House Hotels at the corner of State and Monroe Streets in Chicago.

The first (known as "The Palmer") was built as a wedding present from Potter Palmer
Potter Palmer
Potter Palmer was an American businessman who was responsible for much of the development of State Street in Chicago.-Retailing career:...

 to his bride Bertha Honoré
Bertha Palmer
Bertha Palmer was an American businesswoman, socialite, and philanthropist.- Biography :Born Bertha Matilde Honoré in Louisville, Kentucky, her father was businessman Henry Hamilton Honoré...

. It opened on September 26, 1871, but burned down just thirteen days later October 9, 1871 in the Great Chicago Fire
Great Chicago Fire
The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about in Chicago, Illinois. Though the fire was one of the largest U.S...

. Palmer immediately set to work rebuilding, and with a $1.7 million signature loan (believed to be the largest individual loan ever secured at the time) constructed one of the fanciest hotels in post-fire Chicago.

Designed by architect John M. Van Osdel
John M. Van Osdel
John Mills Van Osdel was an American architect who is considered the first Chicago architect. He is considered a peer of the most prominent architects in the history of Chicago...

, the second Palmer House Hotel was seven stories. Its amenities included oversized rooms, luxurious decor, and sumptuous meals served in grand style. The floor of its barber shop was reputedly tiled with silver dollars. Constructed mainly of iron and brick, the hotel was widely advertised as, "The World's Only Fire Proof Hotel." Famous visitors included presidential hopefuls James Garfield
James Garfield
James Abram Garfield served as the 20th President of the United States, after completing nine consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Garfield's accomplishments as President included a controversial resurgence of Presidential authority above Senatorial courtesy in executive...

, Grover Cleveland
Grover Cleveland
Stephen Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms and therefore is the only individual to be counted twice in the numbering of the presidents...

, Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

, William Jennings Bryan
William Jennings Bryan
William Jennings Bryan was an American politician in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. He was a dominant force in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, standing three times as its candidate for President of the United States...

 and William McKinley
William McKinley
William McKinley, Jr. was the 25th President of the United States . He is best known for winning fiercely fought elections, while supporting the gold standard and high tariffs; he succeeded in forging a Republican coalition that for the most part dominated national politics until the 1930s...

; writers Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

, L. Frank Baum
L. Frank Baum
Lyman Frank Baum was an American author of children's books, best known for writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz...

, and Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

; and actresses Sarah Bernhardt
Sarah Bernhardt
Sarah Bernhardt was a French stage and early film actress, and has been referred to as "the most famous actress the world has ever known". Bernhardt made her fame on the stages of France in the 1870s, and was soon in demand in Europe and the Americas...

 and Eleanora Duse. It was completed in 1875.

By the 1920s, the business in downtown Chicago could support a much larger facility and the Palmer Estate decided to erect a new 25-story hotel. They hired Holabird & Roche
Holabird & Roche
The architectural firm of Holabird & Root was founded in Chicago in 1880. Over the years, the firm's designs have changed many times — from the Chicago School to Art Deco to Modern Architecture to Sustainable Architecture.-History:...

 to design the building. Between 1923 and 1925, the hotel was rebuilt on the same site — in stages so not a single day of business was lost. At the time it was touted as the largest hotel in the world.

In December 1945, Conrad Hilton
Conrad Hilton
Conrad Nicholson Hilton was an American businessman and investor. He is well known for being the founder of the Hilton Hotels chain.-Early life:Hilton was born in San Antonio, New Mexico...

 bought the Palmer House for $20 million. In 2005 it was sold to Thor Equities
Thor Equities
Thor Equities, LLC, is a real estate development and investment firm founded by Joseph Sitt based in New York City that specializes in revitalizing and adding value to urban properties in high density areas. The company owns the historic Palmer House Hilton in Chicago and much of the ocean front...

, but it remains part of the Hilton chain.

From 2007 to 2009 the hotel, now known as The Palmer House Hilton, was completely renovated and restored, at a cost of over $170 Million. It has a total of 1,639 guest rooms in the hotel, making it the second largest hotel in the city after the Hyatt Regency Chicago
Hyatt Regency Chicago
The Hyatt Regency Chicago is a Hyatt hotel on East Wacker Drive in Chicago, Illinois. The hotel operates over 2,018 guest rooms in two different towers which were constructed in 1974 and 1980. The towers are connected by both an above-ground skyway and an underground concourse...

.

Further reading

  • Robert V. Allegrini, Chicago's Grand Hotels: The Palmer House Hilton, The Drake, and The Hilton Chicago (ISBN 0738539546)

External links

  • The Palmer House Hilton - official website with virtual tour
  • Chicago Historical Society - 1873 description by Rudyard Kipling
    Rudyard Kipling
    Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...

     following the Great Chicago Fire
    Great Chicago Fire
    The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about in Chicago, Illinois. Though the fire was one of the largest U.S...

  • Fred A. Bernstein, "A Hotel Looks Back to Its 1920s Glamour", New York Times, October 25, 2008
  • Palmer House Hilton Reviews - Reviews of guests who have visited the hotel