In its August 2006 issue, Chicago Magazine featured a fascinating and surprising three-page article on the history of the Stevens Hotel that included these tidbits of information:
Only a few years after J. W. Stevens opened his grand Michigan Avenue hotel, the Depression devastated his family, inducing a series of calamities that included suicide, bankruptcy, and criminal charges. But from the debacle of the Stevens Hotel (now Chicago Hilton and Towers) emerged a young man who today, at 86, sits on the U.S. Supreme Court. . .When the Stevens Hotel opened in 1927, the news papers wrote of a new Versailles rising on South Michigan Avenue. The colossal building soared 28 stories and occupied an entire city block between Seventh and Eighth streets. With 3,000 guest rooms, it was the biggest hotel in the world-and possibly the most opulent...
No one had seen anything quite like it before. Yet, just five years after the first two guests-Vice President Charles G. Dawes of the United States and President Gerardo Machado of Cuba-registered, the Stevens Hotel plunged into a disaster as grand as its founders' ambitions. The hotel went bankrupt, and the State of Illinois charged its owners with financial corruption. . .
Few, if any, of the thousands who pass through the cavernous Chicago Hilton and Towers, as the Stevens is called today, know the dramatic episode of Chicago history that unfolded there. But it is not just the tale of a gaudy Jazz Age venture laid low by the Depression. It is also the story of a remarkable Chicago family-a family that paid dearly when its reach exceeded its grasp, but attained new heights in the next generation. The youngest Stevens heir was seven years old when the hotel opened, and barely a teenager as the business crumbled around him. But John Paul Stevens would go on to become a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, the office he still holds at the age of 86. . .
As mentioned in the above article The Stevens Hotel is now the Hilton Chicago, with a AAA rating of four diamonds. The official website here shows a photo of the front of the hotel, looking quite unchanged from the postcard. But times -- and Chicago along with them -- have definitely changed..........
New to the Chicago skyline is The Clare at Water Tower. This "first-of-its-kind, high-rise senior living community is situated on the Loyola University Chicago Water Tower campus in Chicago's Gold Coast," and its first residents moved in this week.
Marlys Marshall Styne, the author of two blogs, was among them. Her latest post at Never too Late! is a stark and honest expression of her life-changing decision to buy her new apartment home at The Clare, and the personal financial logistics involved in keeping with her plans during this economic recession. Still, true to form, Marlys ends on a note of gratitude and hopefulness. Readers thinking about making plans for their own senior years, or involved in the process of doing so for their parents, might gain from reading the pros and cons of such a move as outlined by Marlys in her previous blog posts on the topic. They might also look forward to her future posts at her writing blog -- Write Your Life! -- in which she'll be reporting on her efforts to encourage other residents at The Clare to write.
This panoramic view of Chicago is taken from the 53rd floor of The Clare, with its bird's eye view of the Stevens Hotel/Hilton Chicago situated across the street from Grant Park some two miles away.
For the rest of my life when I hear or read something about Grant Park the scene below is what I'll think of. (I can't be sure if The Stevens Hotel/Hilton Chicago and The Clare are in this photo.) My heart was there that evening, as it will be in Washington D.C. less than a week from now. By the time next Old Postcard Wednesday rolls around President Barack Obama will be in office on the job.
Tribune photo by Chris Walker/November 4, 2008 Grant Park