Sometimes a hotel is just a hotel. It’s a place to sleep for the night, and that’s all it was ever meant to be. But sometimes, a hotel is an obsession. One particular hotel was the obsession of two men and their fixations had contrasting outcomes: For one, it was a heralded achievement, but for the other, it became the cause of scandal and suicide.
James W. Stevens wanted to build the biggest hotel in the world, and on March 4, 1922, The Economist reported that he was going to do just that. It would be twenty-five stories, have three thousand rooms, and cost fifteen million dollars. It would have magnificent lounges, shopping along Michigan Avenue, and a grand staircase. Most of all, it would be beautiful. A March 7 editorial in the Chicago Tribune, a clipping that would make its way into a copper box buried in the cornerstone, precipitately named it the World’s Greatest Hotel.
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Architects: Holabird & Roche
Address: 720 S. Michigan Ave.
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Sources for The Stevens Hotel (Hilton Chicago)
This is a selection of specific sources used to provide details while researching this landmark. Additional sources, including books and websites, can be found on the Resources page.
- Holland, Rebecca. “Hilton Chicago Updates Imperial Suites, Union Station Prepares for New Development, and More News in Chicago.” Architectural Digest, 13 Jan 2020.
- Lane, Charles. “Heartbreak Hotel.” Chicago Magazine, 16 Jun 2007.
- Levinsohn, Florence Hamlish. “Grand Hotel.” Chicago Reader, 30 Mar 1989.
- “The Stevens of Chicago; 3000 Rooms.” The Hotel Monthly, Vol. 35, 1927.
- “The Stevens, Chicago’s New $15,000,000 Hotel.” The Economist, March 4, 1922.
- “Stevens, Hotel Builder, Dies.” Wisconsin State Journal, 15 May 1936.
- “Stevens Hotel has New Name: Conrad Hilton.” Chicago Tribune, 01 Nov 1951.