Chicago Architecture Info

The Blackstone

636 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago

Facts

Formerly
  • The Renaissance Blackstone Hotel
  • The Blackstone Hotel
  • The Sheraton-Blackstone
  • The Blackstone Hotel
Also known as The Hotel of Presidents
Address
Neighborhood South Loop
Built 1908-1910
Developers John and Tracy Drake
Architect Benjamin Marshall
Architecture firm Marshall & Fox
Type
  • Hotel
  • Retail
  • Skyscraper
Floors 21
Height 290 feet
Width 80 feet, five inches
Length 173 feet
Hotel rooms 332
Cost $1,500,000

Notes

  • This building is known as the “Hotel of Presidents” because so many American presidents and foreign leaders have stayed here. At one time it included both a Governor's Suite, and a specially constructed Presidential Suite on the fifth floor separate from the rest of the hotel with a dedicated emergency exit.
  • American presidents who have stayed here include:
    • Theodore Roosevelt
    • William Howard Taft
    • Woodrow Wilson
    • Warren G. Harding
    • Calvin Coolidge
    • Herbert Hoover
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt
    • Harry S. Truman
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower
    • John F. Kennedy
    • Lyndon B. Johnson
    • Richard Nixon
    • Jimmy Carter
  • It was in a 1920 report about the nomination of Warren G. Harding to run for president that the expression “smoke-filled room” was coined by Associated Press reporter Kirke L. Simpson, describing the conditions in rooms 408 through 410 during a private the meeting in this hotel.
    Harding of Ohio was chosen by a group of men in a smoke-filled room early today as Republican candidate for President.
    Kirke L. Simpson, Associated Press, June 12, 1920
  • This hotel was named after Timothy Blackstone, the founding president of the Union Stockyards and an executive with the Chicago and Alton Railroad.
  • This was formerly the location of Timothy Blackstone's mansion.
  • A year after this building was erected, a companion theater was built next door. It was known as the Blackstone Theater.
  • This hotel was developed by John and Tracy Drake, known as “Chicago's Innkeepers” because of the number of important hotels they established in the city, including The Drake Hotel, and the Grand Pacific Hotel.
  • This is one of only four buildings built in Chicago in the Modern French style, which was a popular style for hotels on the east coast at the time, but never took hold in the rest of the country. The only other one still standing is the Belden-Stratford at 2300 North Lincoln Park West.
  • The ground level facade is pink granite, followed by white glazed terra cotta. The building's main shaft is red brick.
  • When originally constructed, the mansard roof of this building was of red tile. It was replaced by the green lead (not copper) roof we see today. The top floor's Juliet balconies were removed at the same time. The current row of porthole windows is original, and marks the former roof line.
  • The top of this building was formerly illuminated by dozens of lights along the roof.
  • At the time of its debut, this building had two enormous flag poles on its roof. They have since been removed.
  • This building was one of the early anchors of the Michigan Avenue streetwall.
  • This building's design won a gold medal from the Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1910.
  • This building was intended to be one of a pair of similar towers. The second building, to be located on the corner of East Balbo Drive and South Wabash Avenue, was never built. It would have been 22 stories tall and connected to the main building by a passageway running over the top of the adjoining theater.
  • The Blackstone Hotel was a second home to many of Chicago's socialites and politicians. Those that didn't have pied-à-terres in this building would often hold social gatherings here that were formerly held in their mansions.
  • This hotel was a favorite of Jazz Age musicians for its facilities and its proximity to nearby recording studios. Blues legend Willie Dixon lived here until he died in 1992.
  • This building once featured an ornamental balcony between the 15th and 16th floors. It was removed in the mid-1950's.

Timeline

1933 The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company forclosed on this building and became its owner.
1936 The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company leased this building to A.S. Kirkeby, Inc.
1941 This building was sold to A.S. Kirkeby, Inc.
1954 This building was sold to Sheraton Hotels.
1973 This building was sold to Mark Friedman for $5,000,000.
1986 This building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
1995 This building was sold to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
2000 This building was closed after failing a federal safety inspection.
2005-2008 The building was rehabilitated by Sage Hospitality for $128,000,000. The renovation was designed by Lucien Lagrange Architects and created three new suites at the top of the building, beneath the mansard roof.
March 2, 2008 This building reopened to the public.