Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Millionaire's Love Story

Who would have guessed that the longest operating hotel in the United States could be found in Chicago Illinois?  I knew that the Palmer House held historical significance for the city but, I didn't know that it started as a love story.  Potter Palmer was a wealthy business magnate when he was introduced to Bertha Honore by his former business partner Marshal Field.  Bertha was a wealthy Socialite some 23 years younger than Potter but, her strong personality and desire to succeed swept Palmer right off his feet.  When they became engaged, Palmer had a hotel built as a wedding present to Bertha for her to decorate and manage on her own.

The hotel opened for business in September of 1871 but, as fate would have it, just 13 days later it burned to the ground in the great Chicago fire.

Palmer was determined to rebuild and was able to secure a $1.7 million dollar loan on his signature alone and the hotel was rebuilt using mostly iron and brick.  When it opened again in 1873, it was advertised as the world's only fire-proof hotel.

Bertha used her knowledge of fine art to decorate the hotel with garnet studded chandeliers, impressionist paintings, and a ceiling fresco painted by French artist Pierre Rigal.

Conrad Hilton bought The Palmer House in 1945 for 20 million dollars and it thereafter became known as The Palmer House Hilton.

From 2007 to 2009, the hotel underwent a complete renovation at a cost of 170 million dollars.  The historic aspects of the hotel have been painstakingly restored so that it still has that old world elegance and charm while providing all the modern amenities to its guests.  You can see in the top photo how the ceiling fresco is illuminated by the crystal chandeliers and in the last two photos you can see how the peacock elevator doors shine like new.

One interesting note is that the Brownie was invented at the hotel when Bertha asked that a special dessert be created for ladies attending the 1893 worlds fair.

I highly recommend that you take a look at The Palmer House Hilton the next time you are in Chicago.  If you don't stay there, just pop in for a drink or maybe a brownie.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating history and what a palatial looking place!

Mersad said...

I have heard about the Palmer House before. Your shots are incredible. What a gorgeous and grand hotel.

Mersad Donko Photography

Lowell said...

A fascinating story about a gorgeous hotel! I've known about the Palmer House but never had a chance to visit it. I know I couldn't afford to stay there! :) Love these photos, Sharon.

PerthDailyPhoto said...

The peacock elevator doors are divine Sharon, even though it's not the right time period they have a look of 'art deco'.. It really is a wonderful looking hotel, and you've just got to love the history!

Judy said...

What a place and what a story to go with it!

Kate said...

Ah, Sharon. Memories!! Over 50 years ago, DH and I eloped and spent our honeymoon at the Palmer House!! You described it so well!

Thérèse said...

So good looking. I keep it in mind.

Catalyst/Taylor said...

Absolutely gorgeous photographs, Sharon. I've not been in the Palmer House Hilton but have stayed at the Conrad Hilton and once had a drink in the Haymarket Bar with Douglas Kiker during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.