The story of downtown Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton is one of romance and undeniable charm.
He was a well-known Chicago business magnate.
She, a stylish socialite and philanthropist.
An introduction by his former business partner, Marshall Field, sparked a romance that led to perhaps one of the most extravagant wedding gifts of all time – a Grand Chicago Hotel destined to take it’s place among the most luxurious hotels in Chicago and the world.
Tragically, just thirteen days after its grand opening, the Palmer House fell victim to the Great Chicago Fire. Determined to rebuild his luxury downtown Chicago hotel, the Palmer House namesake secured a $1.7 million loan – negotiated on his signature alone. On November 8, 1873, the new Palmer House welcomed its first guests, marking the opening of what would become the nation’s oldest continually operating hotel.
Bertha leaves her mark.
Shortly after befriending Claude Monet in France, Bertha Palmer began decorating the Palmer House with artistic treasures inspired by her French heritage, eventually accumulating the largest collection of impressionist art outside of France. The Palmer House was bedecked with garnet-draped chandeliers, Louis Comfort Tiffany masterpieces, and at its heart, a breathtaking ceiling fresco by French painter Louis Pierre Rigal, which was described by columnist George Will as "a wonderful protest of romance against the everydayness of life."
A star is born.
By the turn of the century, the Palmer House had become Chicago’s liveliest social center, hosting a long list of prominent figures, from U.S. Presidents, to Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde.
In 1933, the Palmer House’s Golden Empire Dining Room was converted into an entertainment epicenter, hosting legendary entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, Louis Armstrong, as well as a little known pianist named Liberace.
The story continues...
Situated just blocks from Magnificent Mile and the downtown Chicago Theater District, the wedding gift from Potter Palmer continues to delight the weariest of travelers and the most demanding of hosts.
From the inescapable stirrings of the heart to a serendipitous convergence of kings, queens, artists and entertainers, the Palmer House story continues to unfold. Each day offering an opportunity to compose yet another chapter, one more bit of history, in a Chicago hotel rich with a heritage unlike any other.