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CHICAGO: Inside The Palmer House

National Hotel

Our Windy City reporter attended the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Open House Chicago last weekend, which stopped at the Palmer House at 17 E Monroe St. Owned by Thor Equities since 2005 and managed by Hilton under a 50-year agreement, the landmark hotel was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire after opening 13 days earlier in 1871. Today's Palmer House, designed by Holabird and Roche with a French Empire-style lobby and Tiffany light fixtures, was the largest hotel in the world when it was completed in 1927. Here's the opulent Peacock Door, which pays homage to the House of Peacock, Chicago's famed jewelry emporium.


Next we got a peek inside the ritzy Empire Room, which played host to the 1879 "Greatest Banquet in History." Honoring President Ulysses S. Grant's return from a world tour, the evening also featured emcee Mark Twain (engaged in a literary rap battle, we imagine), Generals Sheridan and Sherman, and Bertha Palmer's beloved French Haviland china (above). The original hotel was a wedding gift to Bertha from husband Potter Palmer, who was responsible for building up much of Chicago's State Street.