Remembering Edgewater Beach Hotel By John Holden and Kathryn Gemperle


“Nothing epitomized the glamour and excitement of Chicago’s jazz age and war years like the fabled Edgewater Beach Hotel. Much more than a hotel, the Edgewater Beach was a world unto itself—the only urban resort of its kind in the nation. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan on Chicago’s North Side, it offered swimming, golf, tennis, dancing, theater, fine dining, exclusive shopping, fabulous floor shows, unique watering holes, and, of course, some of the best jazz and swing music of its era. It even had its own pioneering radio station, which broadcasted across the nation and burnished its fame. Many of the legends of the big band era played its stages, and many of Hollywood’s leading stars crossed its footlights. It was a stomping ground for both the rich and famous as well as ordinary people who wanted a small taste of the high life. The Edgewater Beach Hotel was world renowned. But the social upheaval of the 1960s, the ascendance of automobile culture, and rapid urban change led to its demise.” (

“Fifty years ago, the last remnants of Edgewater’s most famous building came down, ending an era for one of the most storied hotels in Chicago history. Now, the Edgewater Beach Hotel is being remembered in the first book on the subject, written by two neighborhood historians.

“‘Remembering Edgewater Beach Hotel’ was published this year under Arcadia Publishing’s popular ‘Images of America’ series. It was written by Kathryn Gemperle and John Holden, members of the Edgewater Historical Society.

“The Edgewater Beach Hotel opened in 1916 in the 5300 block of North Sheridan Road. It quickly became the crown jewel of Edgewater, which was known for its wealthy residents and leafy mansions. With its own beach, the hotel quickly became a destination for well-heeled Chicagoans and dignitaries of the day, including Babe Ruth, Bing Crosby and Marilyn Monroe.

“‘The hotel was that rarest of birds, perhaps without equal anywhere in the world: a full-service beachfront resort hotel located in the heart of one of the world’s great cities,’ Holden and Gemperle write in the book. ‘To find its rivals in the mid-20th century, one would have had to travel outside the Midwest to Atlantic City, Palm Beach, or the islands of California.’

“Aside from its lavish amenities, the hotel was the first home of WGN, which placed its broadcast antennas atop the hotel. The hotel also helped popularize jazz and big band music in the 1920s, with radio broadcasts beaming live performances from the hotel.

“The Edgewater Beach Hotel played a pivotal role in the founding of the Zenith Radio Company. It is also considered to have built the world’s first indoor parking garage.

“In 1947, the city approved a plan to extend DuSable Lake Shore Drive from Foster Avenue to Hollywood Avenue, cutting off the hotel from its private lakefront.

“The Edgewater Beach Hotel closed in 1967 and was demolished in 1971. All that remains is the Edgewater Beach Apartments, the historic building at 5550 N. Sheridan Road built in 1928 as a companion to the hotel.

“Despite its demise, the Edgewater Beach Hotel retains a special place in the memory of longtime Edgewater residents, Gemperle said. The authors hope the new book will help preserve the hotel’s legacy for future generations of Chicagoans.

“‘The community of Edgewater has a nostalgia for the hotel, especially after it was torn down,’ Gemperle said. ‘It really was a big deal.’ (Ward, Block Club Chicago, 8/5/21)

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago

Edgewater Beach Hotel, Glitzy Lakefront Resort Demolished In ’70s, Memorialized In New Book; Neighborhood historians Kathryn Gemperle and John Holden wrote the book, which builds off an exhibit they designed about the hotel with its own private beach, Joe Ward, Block Club Chicago, 8/5/21

Return with us now to the glory and celebrity of Chicago’s Edgewater Beach Hotel, Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune, 8/4/21

Order a copy at Arcadia Publishing

More history of the Edgewater Beach Hotel at the Edgewater Historical Society


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