After first opening its doors in 1871, Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel celebrates its 150th anniversary on September 23 with an open house event, inviting guests to explore the hotel’s collection of prized artifacts and learn about its deep-rooted history in Chicago. The lobby will open to the public at 11:00am with a state and city proclamation dedication and address from Hilton SVP Hotel Operations, Americas, Keith Clampet. Additional speakers commemorating the sesquicentennial celebration include Larry Horowitz of Historic Hotels of America, serving as the Master of Ceremonies, and keynote address from Alderman Brendan Reilly.
“Through the years, Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel has been a pinnacle of resilience, ingenuity, haven of inclusivity, and institutional part of the growth of Chicago. As a hotel built on love, Palmer House remains engrained into the city of Chicago, serving as a beacon of light following a challenging year,” said Hilton Area General Manager, Dean Lane. “With the demise of the original building due to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, undeterred Potter Palmer secured the largest hotel real estate loan of its day and rebuilt the second Palmer House, the first fire-proof hotel in the world. Proving its staying power through the decades, Palmer House has become a hotel of many firsts, famously the first hotel to install the original telephone system, sometimes accommodating 2,700 calls per hour. Palmer House is the first fireproof hotel, birthplace of the original chocolate fudge brownie, the first to employ the vertical steam lift, which would later become the elevator, the first hotel to use the lightbulb, and home to the first-ever Polaroids from the 1893 World’s Fair. We take pride in preserving our hotel’s history and are honored to share its treasures with our beloved city and guests in honor of the hotel’s 150th year anniversary.”
In the past two months, Palmer House has unveiled a brand-new indoor swimming pool following a $2.2 Million renovation and introduced Lockwood Express, a grab and go concept that includes daily baked pastries, Lavazza coffee, selection of warm artesian meals, and even small batch cocktails for travelers on-the-go. For the anniversary celebration, the hotel will introduce the Bertha Brownie Latte, a playful spin on the original fudge brownie.
The story of Chicago’s Palmer House began as an extravagant wedding gift from Potter Palmer to his new wife, Bertha Honoré Palmer. Only 13 days after its grand opening, The Palmer House sadly fell victim to the Great Chicago Fire, but was rebuilt on November 8, 1873, marking the opening of what would become one of the nation’s most iconic and famed hotels.
By the turn of the century, Palmer House had become Chicago’s liveliest social center, hosting a long list of prominent figures— ranging from U.S. presidents to Charles Dickens to Oscar Wilde. In 1933, the Empire Dining Room hosted legendary entertainers, including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, Louis Armstrong, and Liberace.