Hilton Chicago

The Hilton Chicago (also known as Chicago Hilton and Towers) is a centrally-located luxury hotel in Chicago, Illinois, United States. The hotel is a Chicago landmark that overlooks Grant Park, Lake Michigan, and the Museum Campus. It is the third-largest hotel in Chicago by number of guest rooms; however, it has the largest total meeting and event space of any Chicago hotel.[3] From its opening in 1927 through 2008, every sitting president of the United States had been housed in the hotel before leaving office.[4]

Hilton Chicago
Stevens Hotel--Hilton Chicago 2020-0444.jpg
Hilton Chicago
Hilton Chicago is located in Illinois
Hilton Chicago
Location within Illinois
General information
Architectural styleBeaux-Arts architecture
Location720 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, United States
Coordinates41°52′21″N 87°37′27″W / 41.8724°N 87.6243°W / 41.8724; -87.6243Coordinates: 41°52′21″N 87°37′27″W / 41.8724°N 87.6243°W / 41.8724; -87.6243
OpeningMay 2, 1927[1]
OwnerHilton Hotels Corporation
Technical details
Floor count30
Floor area2,054,590-square-foot (190,878 m2)
Design and construction
ArchitectHolabird & Roche[2]
Other information
Number of rooms1,544
Number of suites90
Number of restaurants3
Parking510-car capacity parking garage


The Stevens HotelEdit

The hotel, designed in the Beaux-Arts architecture style, opened on May 2, 1927, as the Stevens Hotel, across Balbo Street from the older Blackstone Hotel. At the time, the Stevens was the largest hotel in the world.[5][6] The hotel was developed by James W. Stevens, his son Ernest, and their family who ran the Illinois Life Insurance Company and owned the Hotel La Salle; James and Ernest Stevens are the grandfather and father, respectively, of former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. The Stevens featured 3,000 guest rooms, cost approximately $30 million to construct (more than ten times the cost of Yankee Stadium only a few years earlier), and boasted of a virtual "City Within a City". The Stevens housed its own bowling alley, barber shop, rooftop miniature golf course (the "High-Ho Club"), movie theater, ice cream shop, and drug store.[6] The first registered guest was Vice President Charles G. Dawes.[7]

The Great Depression ruined the Stevens family, and the State of Illinois charged the hotel's owners with financial corruption. They were convicted of embezzlement, but the conviction was reversed unanimously on appeal. Like four out of five American hotels during the Great Depression, the Stevens Hotel went bankrupt.[6] The government took the hotel into receivership, and by the late 1930s, it was valued at only $7 million.[7]

In 1942, the U.S. Army purchased the Stevens Hotel for $6 million for use as barracks and classrooms for the Army Air Force during World War II. The Stevens housed over 10,000 air cadets during this time, who utilized the Grand Ballroom as their mess hall. In January 1944, the War Department closed a deal to sell the property for $4.91 million to a bricklayer turned private businessman named Stephen Healy.[8]

On December 7, 1944, delegates from 54 nations gathered in the Grand Ballroom of the Stevens Hotel to conclude and sign the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known more popularly as the ‘Chicago Convention’, the defining international agreement which has since permitted the global civil aviation system to develop peacefully and in a manner benefiting all peoples and nations of the world.

The Conrad HiltonEdit

As World War II drew to a close, Conrad Hilton purchased the hotel from Healy in February 1945.[9] The board of directors changed the name of the hotel, naming it after Conrad Hilton himself on November 19, 1951.[10] Hilton continued to use his Hollywood connections to entice film stars, politicians and royalty to the hotel.

Among improvements made to the hotel was the installation of a large ice stage in the Boulevard Room Supper Club which began featuring elaborate ice shows in 1948. In January 1958, Darlene and Jinx the skating chimpanzee performed. The Hilton Center was added to the building in 1962, featuring a three-level structure containing expanded exhibit space, the Continental Ballroom and the International Ballroom.[11]

In April 1951, crowds gathered in the Great Hall to hear a speech by General Douglas MacArthur defending his conduct of the war in Korea, calling for a new American policy toward the conflict to replace the current "political vacuum".[12]

Cynthia Albritton, also known as Cynthia Plaster Caster, made her famous cast of Jimi Hendrix in this hotel. According to Cynthia, it was created in Room 1628. The successful casting effort occurred on February 23, 1968.

Chicago Police outside the Conrad Hilton during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

During the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the streets outside the Conrad Hilton Hotel were the scene of a police riot as antiwar demonstrators, being beaten and arrested, began to chant "The whole world is watching".[13] Some protesters escaped into the hotel, along with tear gas and "stink bombs", and the hotel suffered minor damage as a result of the violence as a couple of street level windows gave way under the weight of dozens of protesters being pushed up against them by the police.

Chicago Hilton and TowersEdit

The Conrad Hilton Hotel was aging and in the 1970s, its demolition was considered. However, in 1984, the hotel closed for over a year for what was then the most expensive hotel renovation ever undertaken, at $185 million. The hotel's 3,000 guest rooms were rebuilt into 1,544 larger and more elegant rooms; 600 were converted to double-sized rooms with two adjoining bathrooms. The reborn hotel glittered and helped to sustain a revival period in Chicago's South Loop neighborhood. The newly renamed Chicago Hilton and Towers reopened on October 1, 1985.[11]

Hilton ChicagoEdit

In 1998, under a new initiative by Hilton Hotels Corporation, the Hilton name was placed first in branding, and the Chicago Hilton and Towers became simply "Hilton Chicago".[14]

Under general manager John G. Wells, the hotel continues its track record of having hosted every U.S. president since it opened in 1927.[4]

In 2012 the hotel started re-invention with $150 million renovation, including new dining outlets 720 South Bar & Grill, SNAX and Kitty O'Sheas.

In March 2020, the hotel closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It reopened again fifteen months later in June 2021.

The Conrad Hilton SuiteEdit

The Hilton Chicago is home to Chicago's largest and most expensive hotel room, which formerly served as the Tower Ballroom. The Conrad Hilton Suite is a 5,000-square-foot (460 m2) suite that encompasses two floors, T3 and T4. The suite costs more than $7,000 per night. Refurbished in 2013, the suite includes 16-foot lake view windows, a baby grand piano, a billiard table, three balconies, three bedrooms on the lower level - each with multiple flat screen televisions, and a helipad.[15] It has hosted famous guests such as Tony Blair, Jay Blunk, Frank Sinatra, John Travolta and Hu Jintao.[5][16]

Appearances in popular cultureEdit

The Hilton Chicago has been featured in many prominent movies[4][17] and TV shows including:

The Hilton Chicago is home to the Normandie Lounge, a promenade that was created from panels and furniture from the famed French Line ocean liner, SS Normandie.

In Bernard Malamud's 1952 novel The Natural, Harriet Bird shoots Roy Hobbs in a room at the Stevens Hotel.[19]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "1927 Chicago Hilton". Historic Hotels of the World. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  2. ^ Chase, Al (March 17, 1926). "Corner stone of largest hotel in world laid". Chicago Tribune.
  3. ^ "Sneak peek: Chicago's largest hotels". Crain's Chicago Business. July 30, 2004. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Welcome to the Hilton Chicago, by Janice R. Kiaski, November 16, 2008.
  5. ^ a b "Chicago Hilton & Towers". Emporis. Retrieved April 4, 2018.[dead link]
  6. ^ a b c Lane, Charles (June 19, 2007). "Heartbreak Hotel". Chicago. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Allegrini, Robert V. (November 9, 2005). Chicago's Grand Hotels. Arcadia Publishing. p. 89. ISBN 978-1439616598.
  8. ^ Dead-Link as of Sunday, April 24th, 2022"Business Notes from Here and There". Milwaukee Journal. January 12, 1944. p. 6.
  9. ^ Hampson, Philip (February 16, 1945). "Stevens Hotel Sale Program Is Completed". Chicago Tribune. p. 25.
  10. ^ "Stevens Hotel has new name: Conrad Hilton". Chicago Tribune. November 1, 1951. p. C1.
  11. ^ a b Chicago's Grand Hotels, Robert V. Allegrini, 2005, page 109.
  12. ^ Conklin, William R. (April 27, 1951). "MacArthur Demands Policy To Replace Korea "Vacuum"". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Ragsdale, Bruce A. (2008). "The Chicago Seven: 1960s Radicalism in the Federal Courts" (PDF). Federal Judicial Center.
  14. ^ Lazarus, George (June 26, 1998). "New names, logo are checking in at Hilton hotels". Chicago Tribune.
  15. ^ Cramer, Richard Ben (January 22, 2013). Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life. Simon & Schuster. p. 495. ISBN 978-1439127988.
  16. ^ Skiba, Katherine (January 12, 2011). "China's President to Visit Chicago". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 2011-02-17. Retrieved 2011-02-17.
  17. ^ Hotels in film, Hilton Global Media Center. Archived 2011-07-11 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Hoekstra, Dave. Hey, I know that roof!, Chicago Sun-Times, April 28, 2002.
  19. ^ MacGregor, Jeff (July 14, 2009). "This Sporting Life: The News Cycle". ESPN. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External linksEdit