Chicago YIMBY: Lost Legends #2: The Morrison Hotel in the Loop

Morrison Hotel Terrace Garden Restaurant circa 1920s, Marshall and Fox in 1915 with 1925 tower addition by Holabird & Roche, 15–29 South Clark Street. Demolished 1965. Postcard credit: Chuckman Collection
Morrison Hotel Lobby M, Marshall and Fox in 1915 with 1925 tower addition by Holabird & Roche, 15–29 South Clark Street. Demolished 1965. Postcard credit: Chuckman Collection
Morrison Hotel Advertisement circa 1928, Marshall and Fox in 1915 with 1925 tower addition by Holabird & Roche, 15–29 South Clark Street. Demolished 1965. Image credit: Chuckman Collection

“Welcome to the second part of our ‘Lost Legends’ series, where we delve into the histories of some of Chicago’s iconic buildings and structures that no longer stand today. In this installment, we will discuss the Morrison Hotel, which was once a prominent edifice near the center of The Loop and one of the tallest buildings ever demolished. We will explore its design, historical significance, and the legacy it left behind.

“The lodging establishment was named after Orsemus Morrison, Chicago’s inaugural coroner, who purchased the location in 1838. In 1860, he constructed a three-story building with 21 guest rooms. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the original structure was replaced by an eight-story edifice. Harry C. Moir, who had acquired the property from Morrison’s nephew, commissioned architects Marshall and Fox in 1915 to create a 21-story, 500-room hotel. The hotel expanded by adding 650 rooms in 1918.

“In 1925, the architectural firm Holabird & Roche undertook another expansion, building a 46-story tower. By 1931, the hotel boasted 1,800 rooms. Subsequently, a fourth section with 21 stories was added alongside the existing edifice, increasing the room count to 2,210.

“The ground floor of the building housed a spacious lobby with marble and decorative plasterwork, offering guests an inviting entrance into the hotel. Equipped with a ballroom, a rooftop garden, and a Turkish bath, the Morrison Hotel provided a range of amenities to its visitors. The hotel’s Terrace Casino was a popular spot for dining, dancing, and entertainment.

“The Morrison Hotel played an important role in the growth of Chicago’s hospitality industry. As one of the city’s early skyscrapers, it demonstrated the possibilities of vertical construction and efficient use of urban space. The hotel’s impressive height and luxurious offerings symbolized Chicago’s progress and development during the 1920s.

“By the 1950s, the Morrison Hotel began to show its age, and newer, more modern hotels started to outpace it. Although there were efforts to revitalize the hotel, it continued to face financial challenges. The hotel would ultimately be demolished in 1965, making it the world’s seventh tallest building to ever be intentionally demolished as of 2023.” (Crawford, Chicago YIMBY, 3/20/23)

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