Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Old Postcard Wednesday--The Stevens Hotel, Chicago, Illinois

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


Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Fantastic building and what a great project to undertake - to get so many different voices and find their impressions of life from under one roof!

Thanks for the link - i will have to remember to keep an eye on that one...

dmarks said...

I've stated there. It is a huge and glorious hotel. Rather opulent. I am pretty sure I have postcards of it. Time to check.

naomi dagen bloom said...

Thanks for another postcard from the past to enjoy. And good to read your update on Marlys Marshall Styne's move into a retirement residence. This is an unusual and significant addition to Elderblogger sharing.

francessa said...

What a hotel! I would take the Art Institute Package with King Bed Lake View for 196.00 USD ;-).

It was nice to hear about Marlys, thanks for this.

Lydia said...

You're welcome for the link - - I agree that it will be extremely interesting to watch her project unfold.

Your post on the hotel is so interesting. Hey, everybody who reads this!...check out the follow-up post over at DMarks' blog.

I absolutely agree with you that Marlys' posts on her move add an unusual and significant element out there. The category of "affluent" seniors that Marlys described as the resident group at The Clare is a minority, isn't it? Or maybe it's just so rare that anyone would write from that viewpoint.

You absolutely must go visit the DMarks blog to read his review of his stay at the Hilton Chicago. I'll go check out what that particular package that attracted you looks like! :)

Nisha said...

Skokie Illinois hotels in chicago Illinois give you intercontinental offers, services and amenities specifically designed for the international business traveler.

Anonymous said...

Would like to donate 1934 black/white photo, taken in front of Stevens Hotel. Photo of Curtis National Jamboree with approx, 250 men. My Father-in-law is in the photo and was the owner, now deceased. If you are interested in the photo, please contact me at
Thank you,
Betty Wontorek



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