The Drake Hotel

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Discover The Drake Hotel, which has been a hot spot for political and social elite in Chicago since opening in the 1920s.

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The Drake Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2016, dates back to 1920.


Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, The Drake Hotel was originally developed when brothers John B. Drake and Tracy Corey Drake decided to construct the building shortly after World War I. The two yearned to operate another upscale luxury hotel, having developed the neighboring Blackstone Hotel a few years prior. They subsequently hired architect Benjamin Howard Marshall to spearhead the project, who spent the better part of a year creating a beautiful multi-story structure. At the time, the building displayed some of the best Italian Renaissance Revival-style architecture throughout the whole city. The doors of The Drake Hotel finally opened on New Year’s Eve of 1920 before some 2,000 of Chicago’s most distinguished citizens. Over the next several years, the Drakes’ stunning new business subsequently emerged as one of the metropolises’ most distinguished gathering spots. The Fountain Court—now known as the “Palm Court”—specifically hosted a celebrated “afternoon tea” that attracted all kinds of guests from the community. The reputation of The Drake Hotel continued to rise well into the 1930s, seemingly unaffected by the hardships wrought from the Great Depression. Icons such as Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, George Gershwin, and Charles Lindbergh were seen sipping a cocktail and listening to music in the Gold Coast Room. Then, in 1932, the hotel’s Cod Room debuted Chicago’s preferred choice for fresh fish and seafood, while also becoming the nation’s first “themed” restaurant. Twenty years later, newlyweds Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio would carve their iconic initials into the bar’s world-famous wooden counter. Then, on December 6th, 1933—the day after prohibition was repealed—the Coq d’Or opened to the favor of thirsty patrons eager to purchase a 40-cent glass of whiskey.

During World War II, The Drake Hotel quickly turned into a local hangout for reporters, politicians, and even some notorious Chicago gangsters. (One of Al Capone’s most infamous associates, Francesco Nitto, even operated an office out of The Drake Hotel.) The hotel’s soon-to-be iconic neon sign debuted, too, solidifying its place within the city’s gorgeous downtown landscape. The decade proved to be an era colossal change for The Drake Hotel, however. For instance, the Palm Court’s menu changed seasonally to accommodate the changing palate of its sophisticated patrons. In the winter, the fountain was replaced with a 2,000-pound fireplace as a way to set the holiday tone. (The fountain was later reinstalled once it got warmer out, in order to attract the cool breeze coming off Lake Michigan.) But real change happened on-site as the political climate in Chicago transformed over the span of the mid-20th century. Indeed, even the hotel’s iconic skyline was crowded by the more modern appearance of the John Hancock Center. In 1980, Hilton International acquired The Drake Hotel and restored it to its former glory. It ultimately invested millions into its complete restoration, installing additional facilities that included a conference venue and fitness center. Even the décor received a makeover, with all new furnishings placed inside each one of The Drake Hotel’s historic accommodations. A member of Historic Hotels of America since 2016, The Drake Hotel today continues to provide the same celebrated hospitality that made it a cherished local landmark long ago. Though The Drake has progressed both architecturally and technologically, the roots of The Drake Hotel run deep beneath its home near Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

  • About the Location +

    Long before it would become the heart of downtown Chicago, Michigan Avenue was once just an ordinary city thoroughfare. Originally known as “Pine Street,” the road only ran the length of the Lake Michigan shoreline from the city’s southern border to the Chicago River when it first debuted in the mid-19th century. Nevertheless, some areas of Pine Street were among the best places to live in the entire metropolis, with dozens of beautiful manors and townhouses lining long sections of the road. A few municipal structures also opened, too, specifically warehouses and factories. Among the most iconic city structures built were a gorgeous water tower and pumping station. Sadly, much of Pine Street was destroyed amid the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, save for a couple historic structures (like the iconic water tower). It would not be until two architects named Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett submitted plans for the city’s complete renovation that Pine Street’s potential redevelopment became a real possibility. At the behest of the Commercial Club of Chicago, both Burnham and Bennett began devising a series of integrated projects that ultimately sought to improve Chicago’s waterfront and downtown core. One of the particular regions of Chicago that attracted their attention was the dilapidated Pine Street. Burnham and Bennett specifically called for its rehabilitation into a sprawling center of local commerce. They envisioned many ornate buildings straddling the revived Pine Street, which would be filled with all kinds of storefronts and offices spaces. Furthermore, they called for Pine Street to be widened considerably, in order to grant access to the new forms of mass transit that were now proliferating throughout Chicago. While local business leaders formed the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association as a way to fund the plan in 1912, actual construction along Pine Street did not truly commence until the onset of the Roaring Twenties.

    By this point, a massive boom in commercial building projects was transpiring all over the Chicago shoreline, with Pine Street becoming one of the main focal points for the construction. Transformed into a new sprawling boulevard called “Michigan Avenue,” many kinds of new structures appeared along the revitalized corridor that displayed an amazing breadth of architectural styles. Some of Chicago’s most iconic landmarks debuted along Michigan Avenue, including Tribune Tower, the Women’s Athletic Club, and the Wrigley Building. Engineers even connected the thoroughfare to the rest of Chicago by way of the double decked DuSable Bridge. Unfortunately, the onset of the Great Depression abruptly brought an end to the work occurring all over Michigan Avenue. Construction would only resume due to the efforts of another noted Chicago-based real estate developer named Arthur Rubloff. In 1947, Rubloff specifically launched a targeted campaign to reignite the creation of ornate skyscrapers through his affiliation with the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association. He even sponsored a brilliant series of plans presented by the renowned architectural firm Holabird & Root to craft many new outstanding structures. But perhaps the most telling legacy of Robloff’s was the moniker he bestowed upon the revitalized thoroughfare. Upon witnessing the wealth of gorgeous buildings that had appeared along the avenue, he decided to christen the location as the “Magnificent Mile.” The building projects continued unabetted for many years thereafter, in which they constructed such renowned landmarks as the celebrated John Hancock Center. Michigan Avenue has since remained a fixture in downtown Chicago, attracting countless visitors each year due to its wide variety of upscale storefronts, eloquent restaurants, and fascinating cultural attractions.

  • About the Architecture +

    Architect Benjamin Howard Marshall mainly used Italian Renaissance Revival style as the source of his inspiration when he built The Drake Hotel on behalf of the Drake brothers. Italian Renaissance Revival architecture itself is a subset of a much large group of styles known simply as “Renaissance Revival,” which is among the most ubiquitous in America. Sometimes referred to as “Neo-Renaissance,” Renaissance Revival architecture is a group of architecture revival styles that originally date back to the 19th century. Neither Grecian nor Gothic in appearance, Renaissance Revival-style architecture drew inspiration from a wide range of structural motifs found throughout Early Modern Western Europe. Architects in France and Italy were the first to embrace the artistic movement, who saw the architectural forms of the European Renaissance as an opportunity to reinvigorate a sense of civic pride throughout their communities. Those intellectuals incorporated the colonnades and low-pitched roofs of Renaissance-era buildings, with the characteristics of Mannerist and Baroque-themed architecture. Perhaps the greatest structural component to a Renaissance Revival-style building involved the installation of a grand staircase in a vein similar to those located at the Château de Blois and the Château de Chambord in France. This particular feature served as a central focal point for the design, often directing guests to a magnificent lobby or exterior courtyard. Yet, the nebulous nature of Renaissance Revival architecture meant that its appearance varied widely across Europe and North America. Many architects left their own mark upon any structure designed with Renaissance Revival-style design aesthetics, including Walter W. Ahlschlager. Historians, thus, often find it difficult to provide a specific definition for the architectural movement, yet acknowledge its inherent beauty, nonetheless.

  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Bing Crosby, singer and actor known for his roles in Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s. 

    Elizabeth Taylor, celebrated actress known for her roles in Cleopatra and The Taming of the Shrew. 

    Marilyn Monroe, actress known for her roles in Bus Stop and Some Like It Hot.  

    Dean Martin, actor known for his roles in such films like Rio Bravo, The Wrecking Crew, and the original Ocean’s 11.

    Judy Garland, actress and singer known for her roles in A Star is Born, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Wizard of Oz.

    Frank Sinatra, actor and singer who sold over 150 million records worldwide.

    Walt Disney, legendary cartoonist and founder of the Walt Disney Company.

    George Gershwin, celebrated composer and pianist known for such songs as Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris.

    Charles Lindbergh, legendary aviator who completed the first solo transatlantic flight in world history.

    Joe DiMaggio, outfielder for the New York Yankees best remembered as the “Yankee Clipper.” 

    Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1940 – 1945; 1951 – 1955) 

    Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India (1947 – 1964)

    King Hussain bin Talal of Jordan (1952 – 1999)

    Charles, Prince of Wales (1952 – present)

    Diana, Princess of Wales (1981 – 1997)

    Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom (1952 – 2022)

    Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933 – 1945)

    Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States (1929 – 1933)

    Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States (1953 – 1961), and Supreme Allied Commander Europe during World War II.

    Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States (1974 – 1977) 

    Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States (1981 – 1989) 

  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    Continental Divide (1981)

    Risky Business (1983)

    Hero (1992)

    Family Matters: Dream Date (1996)

    Mission Impossible (1996)

    My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

    What Women Want (2000)

    Wicker Park (2004)

    Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

    Carol (2015)

  • Women in History +

    Eleanor Roosevelt: The Drake Hotel has hosted countless luminaries throughout its history, ranging from Hollywood celebrities to notable politicians. Among those illustrious individuals who stayed at the inn was former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She was born Anna Eleanor Roosevelt in 1884, the daughter of Elliott and Anna Hall Roosevelt. A member of the Oyster Bay clan of the Roosevelt dynasty, Elliott himself was the brother of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s immediate family cherished community service, although both her parents died at an early age. Her intellectually progressive outlook on life was further reinforced by Marie Souvestre, who was Roosevelt’s headmistress during her time in London’s prestigious Allenswood Boarding Academy. Nevertheless, she kept those personal influences close to her heart, and used them as the foundation for her future work as a social activist. Indeed, some of her earliest work involved tending to the overcrowded settlement houses in New York City’s Lower East Side.

    Around the same time, she began courting her distant cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They eventually married in 1905 and had six children together. Yet, the marriage was strained by the two’s dueling personalities, as well as the demands of her husband’s early political career. Roosevelt often felt her responsibilities as a “political wife” were tedious, especially after Franklin’s appointment as the Assistant Secretary of War shortly before the outbreak of World War I. Their marriage further deteriorated in 1918, when Eleanor discovered that Franklin had an affair with their mutual friend, Lucy Mercer. Roosevelt, thus, vowed to throw herself fully back into her political activism. But the two had a strong understanding that their fates remained intertwined and aspired to support one another going forward. It was Eleanor who encouraged Franklin to remain in politics even after he was beset with polio in 1921. As such, Eleanor Roosevelt was incredibly instrumental in aiding her husband’s election as the Governor of New York in 1928, as well as his subsequent rise to the presidency four years later. She often gave numerous speeches in public on his behalf that galvanized thousands of people. Roosevelt also became a central figure at of his many campaign events, serving as her husband’s voice whenever he could not attend.

    But Eleanor Roosevelt still established her own vibrant political career as the First Lady of the United States. Historians today consider her actions to have fundamentally transformed the role that the First Lady traditionally held within the national government. Roosevelt used her position to advance a number of causes close to her heart, including gender equality, civil rights, and housing reform. For instance, she arranged a massive celebration at the nearby Lincoln Memorial to protest the racist decision of the Daughters of the American Revolution to not let Marian Anderson—an African American opera singer—perform at Constitution Hall. On another occasion, she privately lobbied for the passage of the Costigan-Wagner Bill, which would have made lynching a federal crime. Roosevelt also held exclusive press conferences at the White House for female journalists, in order to help enable women to break into the field. She even attempted to create an experimental community in West Virginia called “Arthurdale,” where homeless miners unfairly driven out of the industry would have a shot at achieving a new, independent life. Although considered a failure, it was testimony to her commitment to enhance the lives of countless others.

    Eleanor Roosevelt’s historic career continued well after her time as the nation’s First Lady ended in 1945. She played a significant role in transforming Hyde Park into a museum dedicated to her late husband’s legacy, which set the precedent for future presidential libraries to follow. She also served as a delegate to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, becoming its chairperson in 1947. Roosevelt remained with the organization until 1953, and her political insight proved integral toward drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After working to reform New York politics throughout the remainder of the decade, Roosevelt eventually worked to support the campaign of John F. Kennedy. While she initially rebuffed Kennedy for his refusal to denounce McCarthyism, Roosevelt relented on the grounds that she believed he had the best chance of leading the nation into the future at the time. When Kennedy won in 1960, she became his representative to such organizations like the National Advisory Committee to the Peace Corps. Then, in 1961, Kennedy appointed her as the First Chair of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. But Roosevelt would not see the commission come to fruition, as she died mere months after it was organized. Eleanor Roosevelt has since been revered as one of the most influential figures in 20th-century American history and is esteemed throughout the world today for her years of advocacy.

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