Plamer House ( Hotel)

Judy Seltenright

South Bend, United States

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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 to his bride Bertha Honoré. It opened on September 26, 1871, but burned down just thirteen days later October 9, 1871 in the Great Chicago Fire. 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, the new 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.”1 Famous visitors included presidential hopefuls James Garfield, Grover Cleveland, Ulysses S. Grant, William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley; writers Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Oscar Wilde; and actress Sarah Bernhardt[citation needed]. It was completed in 1875.
Palmer House Hotel Ladies Entrance (1903-09-19)

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 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.2 In December 1945, Conrad Hilton bought the Palmer House for $20 million. In 2005 it was sold to Thor Equities, but it remains part of the Hilton chain.3

As of July 2007, the hotel is open for business while being renovated, under the name “Palmer House Hilton” – rather than the usual Hilton logo, it uses a P surrounded by a wreath. As of December 31, 2005, there were a total of 1,639 guest rooms in the hotel, making it the 2nd largest hotel in the city after the Hyatt Regency Chicago.4

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