If These Walls Could Talk: 15 Historic Hotels in Chicago for Luxe Events
by Jessica Terson, Writer
These historic hotels in Chicago are more than just a place to spend the night. Step inside these architectural wonders and marvel at centuries of riveting history. Experience a first dance on the same floor at The Drake Hotel that propelled the Charleston craze into the national spotlight. Raise a glass in celebration where Mark Twain stayed at The Palmer House, originally built as a wedding gift from groom to bride. From palatial Beaux-Arts structures to dramatic skyscrapers, these 15 historic Chicago hotels set the stage for an unforgettable celebration.
The Drake Hotel
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, The Drake Hotel has a long history of hosting Chicago’s elite. Since it’s opening in 1920, hotel guests have wined and dined alongside some of the world’s most illustrious figures. In the Cape Cod Room, you’ll find Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimaggio’s initials carved into the bar’s wooden counter. Guests who have visited The Palm Court, The Drake Hotel’s ornate lobby space, might easily have spotted Queen Elizabeth or the Empress of Japan enjoying a cup of tea.
With such an exalted lineup, it’s no surprise that The Drake Hotel is one of the most sought after event venues in the country. For a night of dancing, head to the The Grand Ballroom. Originally built in the roaring twenties for the Caharleston craze, its floor is “literally equipped to put a spring in your step.” The Camellia Room is modern and elegant with decorative marble tile floor, trellis patterned wallcoverings, and crystal beaded chandeliers. For large-scale galas, host a celebration in The Gold Coast Ballroom. Not only is it almost the same size as the ballroom at Buckingham Palace, but the hand-painted gold columns evoke a royal aesthetic.
Camellia Room Capacity: 150 (seated) – 200 (standing)
The Grand Ballroom Capacity: 360 (seated) – 500 (standing)
The Gold Coast Ballroom Capacity: 500 (seated) – 900 (standing)
The Talbott Hotel
After 90 years as a distinguished boutique hotel, The Talbott Hotel recently underwent a massive $20 million renovation. Originally constructed in 1927, this historic Gold Coast hotel combines modern amenities with a classic, European-inspired façade. Chicago-based interior design icon KARA MANN revitalized the hotel’s interior while paying homage to traditional materials such as milk-painted wood paneling and terrazzo.
For intimate gatherings such as an elegant bachelor party or milestone celebration, look to The Gallery Room. A plush sectional sofa and antique fireplace complement walls decorated with hand-dripped glaze. The McRae room is ideal for tasteful business meetings with its neutral palette and simple decor. The Reed Room makes an excellent event space for a banquet dinner or cocktail reception. A coffered ceiling and two custom-designed chandeliers add a touch of opulence to the modest decor. For guests looking to indulge in historic Gold Coast glamour without forsaking modern simplicity, The Talbott Hotel provides the perfect haven.
The Gallery Room Capacity: 16 (seated) – 30 (standing)
The McRae Room Capacity: 30 (seated) – 50 (standing)
The Reed Room Capacity: 54 (seated) – 80 (standing)
20 East Capacity: 45 (seated) – 90 (standing)
W Hotel Chicago City Center
Opened: in 1928 landmark building
In 1928, an Italian Count began elaborate plans to construct a private gentlemen’s club. Hoping to attract the businessmen in Chicago’s booming Financial District, he raised an opulent Beaux-Arts structure in the heart of downtown. Plans fell through when the Great Depression hit, and his private club was eventually purchased for use as a grand hotel. By then, Beaux-Arts was out of fashion, and the interior was replaced with Art Deco and contemporary decor.
Now, W Chicago City Center is one of only two buildings in Chicago to have two main ballrooms on the Plateau level lacking structural pillars, so guests can enjoy uninterrupted dancing, socializing, and views of the space. The Great Room II boasts 18-foot ceilings, vaulted arches, and unique waterfall chandeliers. The original 1920 fireplace makes for an elegant ceremonial backdrop, like in this luxe golden Chicago wedding from the planners at Plum and Ivy and the designers at Ashland Addison Floral and Event Décor. Host a cocktail reception on the Plateau. Open balconies allow guests to mingle under vaulted ceilings while overlooking the chic Midland Social Club.
Midland Social Club Capacity: 40 (seated) – 60 (standing)
Plateau Pre-Function Capacity: up to 250 (standing)
Great Room II Capacity: 170 (seated) – 250 (standing)
Opened: in former IBM Building, completed in 1973
The Langham Chicago makes its home in AMA Plaza, in the former IBM building — a sleek skyscraper designed by world-renowned architect Mies van der Rohe shortly before his passing. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this impressive building wows guests from the moment they walk through the doors. White marble walls and a stunning Jaume Plensa sculpture adorn the lobby and make for memorable photo ops.
Celebrations at The Langham Chicago combine Rohe’s mid-century formalism with lavish elegance. The Devonshire Ballroom’s floor-to-ceiling windows provide picturesque Chicago River views. Twenty-two-foot ceilings and glittering waterfall chandeliers elevate every celebration. This black-tie Casino-Royal-themed corporate soirée from the team of professionals at Chicago Casino Suppliers is extra glamorous with a Chicago-skyline lighting projection. The Cambridge Room can easily be divided into three separate spaces, making it ideal for any event requiring break-out space. We especially love the Melbourne Room for sophisticated dinner parties overlooking Lake Michigan.
Melbourne Room Capacity: 50 (seated) – 50 (standing)
The Cambridge room Capacity: 150 (seated) – 150 (standing)
Devonshire Ballroom Capacity: 260 (seated) – 260 (standing)
Opened: in historic 1928 McGraw-Hill building
Despite the male-dominated architectural field in the 1930s, Chicago-born sculptress Gwen Lux designed the historical McGraw Hill building’s gorgeous facade. The Gwen takes both its name and interior design inspiration from this exceptional artist. The multiple private-event spaces in this Luxury Collection Hotel attest to the building’s historic glamour. The Grand Lux Suite, perched 16 stories above Lake Michigan, dazzles the eye with retro-inspired lighting, Swarovski crystal chandeliers, and floor-to-ceiling windows. An attached Grand Terrace with incredible views of Michigan Avenue makes for dreamy outdoor cocktail receptions. The Gallery Ballroom is equally stunning with sputnik sculptures and vintage flush-mount lighting. With adjacent space, the ballroom can easily accommodate a cocktail hour or photo booth.
The Gallery Ballroom Capacity: 200 (seated) – 255 (standing)
The Grand Salon Capacity: 200 (seated) – 350 (standing)
Opened: in 1920’s-era Cedar Hotel
Once the Cedar Hotel, Viceroy Chicago is now a fashionable boutique hotel in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago. The building’s original 1920s neo-classical, four-story brick-and-terra-cotta façade was carefully removed, then reincorporated into the new 18-story glass tower. The result is a marriage of past and present that’s a welcome addition to Chicago’s eclectic skyline. As guests enter the three-story lobby, they’re greeted by a 30-foot art wall inscribed with quotes from Marcel Proust. An adjacent restaurant displays the original neon Cedar Hotel sign.
For banquets and receptions, Cedar Ballroom impresses guests with floor-to-ceiling windows. Black-out drapes and drop-down screens also make the space ideal for corporate meetings. Guests can step outside on the adjoining Lake View Terrace for impressive views of Lake Michigan. This Wish Upon a Wedding summer social made inventive use of the space by offering guests bubbles to blow for a fun photo op. Michelin-starred chef Lee Wolen provides a gourmet menu that distinguishes this hotel from surrounding venues. Guests can also rent out Somerset restaurant for private dinner parties and cocktail receptions, as well as Devereaux, the rooftop lounge and pool.
Cedar Ballroom Capacity: 130 (seated) – 200 (standing)
Somerset Restaurant Full Buyout Capacity: 200 (standing)
The Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel
We love romantic stories, so of course we love the story of how Palmer House came to life. Potter Palmer, a Chicago business magnate, fell in love with the wealthy socialite Bertha Honoré. Knowing only the most extravagant wedding gift would suit such an illustrious bride, he gifted her Palmer House. Sadly, 13 days after its grand opening, it was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. But nothing can deter true love. Palmer rebuilt the hotel and opened the doors two years later, making it the country’s longest continually-operating hotel. This historic masterpiece owes much of its beauty to Mrs. Palmer herself. After befriending Claude Monet, she decorated the interior of Palmer House with the largest collection of impressionist art outside of France. By the turn of the century, Palmer House was hosting a list of distinguished figures, including movie stars and US presidents.
Fast forward to today, and Palmer House is still a Chicago favorite. As soon as guests enter the gilded Grand Lobby, they are greeted by a majestic ceiling of 21 Greek mythological panels. Off the lobby, guests can explore the Empire Room, once a nightclub for big-name entertainment. This ornate ballroom, with its gold-leaf-trimmed ceiling, is now a gorgeous private event space perfect for receptions or banquets. We love how Yanni Design Studio decked out the space with florals for a wow-worthy ceremony at this vibrant Indian wedding. The Red Lacquer Room steals hearts with its red lacquer walls and ornate gold-ceiling details. For large-scale galas, the two-story Grand Ballroom exceeds expectations. Gold-detail work and glittering chandeliers invoke a fairytale palace.
The Empire Room Capacity: 300 (seated) – 500 (standing)
The Red Lacquer Room Capacity: 450 (seated) – 688 (standing)
The Grand Ballroom Capacity: 800 (seated) – 1,119 (standing)
Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel
Opened: in 1927 landmark building
Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel Chicago, built in 1927, owes its 14-story, gothic-inspired structure to acclaimed architects Rissman and Hirschfield. Famous patrons of this historic hotel include John F. Kennedy and The Rolling Stones. Rumor has it that Al Capone’s brother operated a casino and speakeasy on the Penthouse floor during Prohibition. Along came the 1970s, and with it, a new owner. Hugh Hefner purchased the hotel, and Chicagoans began calling it “Playboy Towers.”
With 15 unique and flexible event spaces, the hotel now plays host to all types of merry-making. Modern-day celebrations in the Crystal Ballroom easily capture the hotel’s exuberant past. The new plexiglass floor recalls the room’s original illuminated glass dance floor where, in the 1930s, leading ballroom dance team Veloz and Yolanda performed their famous dance act. With a wrap-around balcony, there’s still plenty of space for a simultaneous cocktail reception alongside dining and dancing. Cheers to no more prohibition!
Martini Bar and The Library Tea Room Capacity: 40 (seated) – 70 (standing)
Prince of Wales Room Capacity: 80 (seated) – 150 (standing)
Crystal Ballroom Capacity: 300 (seated) – 450 (standing)
The Robey Hotel
At 203 feet tall, The Robey Chicago proudly towers above the bustling intersection of Damen, Milwaukee, and North Avenue. This Art Deco flat-iron building was originally designed as an office building in 1929 by the firm of Perkins, Chatten & Hammond. Guests have loved The Robey ever since. Cocktail parties are always a hit in The Lounge. The Boardroom, a cozy glass-enclosed space, is perfect for an intimate dinner or elegant board meeting. Lounge seating and two spacious bars in Robey Hall perfectly cater to larger receptions. For outdoor celebrations, The Robey offers The Up Room, a rooftop cocktail lounge with dramatic views of the Chicago skyline. Don’t forget Cabana Club’s sixth floor rooftop pool and deck, a perfect venue for dynamic summer bashes. Surrounded by the vibrant Wicker Park neighborhood, The Robey offers a unique venue for special occasions.
The Up Room Capacity: 18 (seated) – 50 (standing)
The Lounge Capacity: 50 (seated) – 80 (standing)
Robey Hall Capacity: 50 (seated) – 100 (standing)
Chicago Athletic Association Hotel
This Venetian Gothic landmark, patterned after the palace of the Doge of Venice, opened in 1893 as a private club. For 122 years, the Chicago Athletic Association catered exclusively to the elite. While the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel now opens it doors to everyone, it remains one of the most glamorous hotels in Chicago. Weddings and receptions are always luxurious events in the White City Ballroom. Floor-to-ceiling windows capped with vintage stained glass offer dramatic views of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. Celebrations are equally stunning in the Madison Ballroom. Towering windows and three 19th-century crystal chandeliers mean plenty of light and picture-perfect photography. For stunning photo ops and unique celebrations on an actual basketball court, consider Stagg Court. Whatever you do, don’t forget to stop by the Game Room, like this bride and groom, for a game of bocce ball.
Madison Ballroom Capacity: 150 (seated) – 260 (standing)
White City Ballroom Capacity: 200 (seated) – 400 (standing)
Stagg Court Capacity: 280 (seated) – 500 (standing)
Virgin Hotel Chicago
Opened: in Old Dearborn Bank Building built in 1928
Originally constructed between 1926 and 1928 as an office building, this neoclassical Chicago Landmark is now a thriving boutique hotel run on a mobile-app-based business model. The ornate terracotta decoration recalls the glamorous movie palaces of the Roaring Twenties. A 1920s oak cigar bar, brass elevator lobby doors, and tiled ceiling are some of the original features still found in this unique hotel.
For a one-of-a-kind celebration, host an intimate event in The Casting Room at Miss Ricky’s. Curtain-covered walls and vintage stage lights make for picture-perfect memories. The Commons Club offers a unique space with towering ornate ceilings, centered by the futuristic bar structure that doubles as sculptural art. We also can’t get enough of Cerise Rooftop, reminiscent of a London loft. It’s wrap-around deck offers magnificent views of the city.
The Casting Room at Miss Ricky’s Capacity: up to 20
Cerise Rooftop Capacity: 60 (seated) – 60 (standing)
The Commons Club Capacity: 70 (seated) – 230 (standing)
The Blackstone Hotel, Autograph Collection
The Blackstone Hotel opened in 1910 and has been hosting celebrity guests ever since. Not only was The Blackstone Hotel known as the “Hotel of Presidents” for much of the 20th century, it also bestowed the term “smoke-filled room” to political parlance. While design critics debate the exact style of the building’s exterior, the U.S. National Register of Historic Places classifies it as Second Empire.
Regardless, its Beaux-Arts architecture is on full display in the Crystal Ballroom. Sculptural details and historic millwork create a sumptuous backdrop in this two-tiered event space complete with 21-foot soaring ceilings. The infamous Al Capone meeting scene from “The Untouchables” was filmed in this very location, while the Barbershop room — an event space named after its original purpose — served the real-life Al Capone. Guests can no longer get a haircut in the spacious room adorned with exquisite marble and Greek columns, but they can host a VIP dinner or elegant corporate function in the storied space.
Barbershop Meeting Room Capacity: 60 (seated) – 87 (standing)
Art Hall Capacity: 250 (standing)
Crystal Ballroom Capacity: 250 (seated) – 345 (standing)
InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile
Opened: in Shriner’s building constructed in 1929
Originally constructed in 1929 as an exclusive men’s club for members of the Shrine organization, InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile is now a luxury hotel. Winning numerous architectural and design awards, as well as hosting celebrities and international dignitaries, InterContinental is a natural choice for a luxe celebration.
King Arthur Court Ballroom, once the private smoking lounge for Chicago’s elite, maintains the opulence of the 1920s with ornate stained glass windows and hand-painted artisan details. The Renaissance Room’s crystal chandeliers and intricate wood carvings evoke the era of King Louis XVI. For truly elaborate celebrations, host an event in the Grand Ballroom. It’s elliptical shape and wrap-around-balcony allows plenty of space for both dining and dancing. We are enamored with this spectacular Christmas wedding lovingly shot by LaCour Images, with decked-out Christmas trees flanking the aisle and vibrant red uplighting.
King Arthur Court Capacity: 250 (seated) – 400 (standing)
Renaissance Room Capacity: 330 (seated) – 500 (standing)
Grand Ballroom Capacity: 400 (seated) 700 (standing)
Opened: in 1923 London Guarantee Building
Constructed in 1923 and considered one of the “Big Four” skyscrapers surrounding the iconic Michigan Avenue Bridge, London House is a gorgeous example of Beaux-Arts architecture. Before serving as a luxury hotel, the building had the honor of hosting Chicago’s WLS (AM) radio legend Paul Harvey and Chicago’s famous jazz supper club The London House.
Now, guests can toast to the future while enjoying the building’s glorious past. Juliette Grand Ballroom boasts floor-to-ceiling windows and a column-free event space for unobstructed views of the Chicago River. Guests can also enjoy stunning views from LH Rooftop, the magnificent rooftop bar. For rehearsal dinners and more intimate weddings, Étoile delights with additional spectacular views and a private terrace.
Étoile Capacity: 80 (seated) – 130 (standing)
LH Rooftop Bar Capacity: up to 200
Juliette Grand Ballroom Capacity: 270 (seated) – 350 (standing)
Opened: originally in the 1920’s
Hotel Lincoln’s iconic red and white sign is always a welcome sight in the beautiful Lincoln Park neighborhood. This boutique Joie de Vivre hotel occupies a historic building built in the 1920s. The original Hotel Lincoln sign graces the front lobby along with original art and a wildly patterned carpet. Instead of a traditional hotel ballroom, Hotel Lincoln offers a chic outdoor spot for vibrant private-event spaces; host a corporate dinner or welcome party cocktails at The J. Parker, Hotel Lincoln’s all-season rooftop bar and lounge, for some of the best views in the city. The Clark Room, above the hotel lobby, offers a bright spot for meetings with Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan views.
The Clark Room Capacity: 64 (seated) – 100 (standing)
Parker Rooftop Bar Capacity: 225 (standing)
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