Palmer House by John Van Osdel Built 1875, Demolished 1925

Historic Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum Collection, greatchicagofire.org, (ichi-00750)

Palmer House
Architect: John Van Osdel
Location: Southeast corner of State and Monroe Streets
Built: 1875
Demolished: 1925

“The Palmer House was rebuilt on its present site, and has always ranked as one of the first-class hotels of the world. Two of its distinguishing features are, in part, that it has always been Democratic headquarters and the favorite of commercial travelers. Its lobbies have always been attractive rather for their beauty than their size but its grand State Street portico, and its architecture generally, are quite striking. It holds its own among the new buildings, both for external beauty and convenience of interior arrangements. The entresol, or gallery floor, and the writing-room under skylights in the rotunda, are features that have commended this hotel strongly to its patrons. The dining-halls have always ranked among the handsomest in Chicago, and the parlors, “bridal-chambers,” halls, and many suites of rooms have exhausted the resources of French and American house-furnishing art.” (Rand McNally’s Bird’s Eye Views of Chicago, 1893, pg. 57)

“Supreme among the post-fire hotels was the $2,500,000 Palmer House at State and Monroe Streets. The design of the hotel was based on plans by John Van Osdel which were expanded by C. M. Palmer, an architect who did much work in Chicago in the 1870s. The Palmer House gloried in thirty-four varieties of marble, a twenty-five-foot-high rotunda, an Egyptian parlor, and furniture imported from France and Italy. It also claimed to be the world’s first fireproof hotel – a strong selling point in Chicago – and 600 tons on Belgium iron were used in its constriction, This Palmer House was demolished in 1925 to make way for the current hotel of that name.” (Lost Chicago, David Lowe, pg. 116)

The current Palmer House, designed by Holabird & Roche in 1923 – 1925, became a Designated Chicago Landmark in 2006. The Palmer House remains a great and cherished Chicago institution.

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