I had read that our upcoming stay in the Palmer House Hilton was a hotel of historical significance and my mom confirmed its authenticity. The Palmer, originally constructed by Potter Palmer in September of 1871 was a wedding gift for his bride-to-be Bertha Honore. Some wedding gift huh! Well, if luck would have it, or should I say bad luck, the hotel was burned to the ground 13 days days later in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Potter Palmer, refusing to give in, reconstructed the hotel to make it one of the fanciest hotels in Chicago, and what he proudly boasted as “The World’s Only Fire Proof Hotel.” The hotel went on to receive two more grandiose renovations. The first being in 1920 when the hotel achieved a height of 25 stories being touted as the largest hotel in the world at that time. The second major renovation occurred recently from 2007-09 with the aid of $170 million. Today the Palmer has almost 1700 guest rooms, making it the second largest hotel in Chicago behind the Hyatt Regency Chicago. As the name implies the Palmer House was purchased by Conrad Hilton in 1945 but was sold to Thor Equities in 2005. It has retained the Hilton brand name none-the-less.
The Palmer House is a wonderful blend of classic meets contemporary. On the classical side one immediately becomes mesmerized by the lobby ceiling mural painted in the 1920’s by Louis Pierre Rigal. It is a tribute to Greek Mythology and love, done in a style similiar to Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Rome. Additionally, the hotel boasts marble walls and staircases, tastefully accessorized with ornate sconces for light and an assortment of potted plants and flowers.
Our room was small but elegantly done. We had the option between a non-smoking double and a smoking king. Worried that our room would smell like stale cigarette smoke I opted for the smaller one to which the front desk attendant claimed she really liked it for what that was worth. Upon entering the room I was immediately concerned with its size. Having not stayed in the heart of many great metropolises, I was unprepared for such accommodations. So initially I was a bit disappointed by its scale of size, but as time progressed and I became more acclimated to my surroundings, I really began to appreciate the room for what it was; a tasteful decor of classical elements.
I really enjoyed the amount of marble used in both the bedroom and bathroom. There were also a lovely curtain and shades that when opened revealed a make-shift courtyard engulfed by colossal buildings spanning 180 degrees. Not an ideal view but intriguing none-the-less by its sheer magnanimity. The bathroom was bright and very white other than the sink counter, accented beautifully with white wall paper and black print. The bed was simple yet elegant, however the both the pillows and mattress were weaker than what I typically like.
Probably the greatest feature of the Palmer House Hilton is its accessibility to the sites of downtown Chicago. We literally only had to walk a few blocks east before we were face to face with such landmarks as the Chicago Instititute of Art, Millenium Park, Lake Michigan, and the Magnificent Mile. We walked or took the subway everywhere, having all “L” lines no more than a couple of blocks from our hotel. Less money for taxi’s meant more money for “funzies” such as eating, drinking, shopping, and attractions, to which downtown Chicago has many. So to conclude I thoroughly recommend staying at the Palmer House for your next visit to Chicago be it business or pleasure. It is the perfect blend of classic style with modern amenities and a location that simply cannot be beat!