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Great Northern Hotel
Life Span: 1891-1940
Location: 267 S. Dearborn
Architect: D.H. Burnham and Company
Inter Ocean, May 18, 1890
E. S. Pike leases to the Northern Hotel Company for 99 years, the property on Jackson st. northeast corner of Dearborn st. 100×165 ft. to Quincy st. at a rental of $35,000 per annum for the first two years, and $50,000 per year for balance of term.
Chicago Tribune, June 17, 1890
Northern Hotel company, fourteen-story and basement hotel at Nos. 227-45 Dearborn street, to cost $1,000,000.
Inter Ocean, June 15, 1892
Chicago Tribune, June 19, 1892
Since the opening of the Auditorium no addition to the hotel facilities of Chicago has been so important as that of the Great Northern Fireproof Hotel just completed, at Jackson and Dearborn streets. Three years ago Messrs. Hulbert & Eden, proprietors of the Tremont House, conceived the idea of building a modern hotel on the European plan, and the Great Northern is the result. Its erection marks a new era in hotel construction, the new building being fourteen stories in height, the highest hotel in the world. Nothing like it has ever been attempted.
The Great Northern occupies the entire frontage on Dearborn street from Jackson to Quincy street. It is constructed of steel, brick, and marble. The building is in shape of a U, each room having an outside exposure. With a force of 400 employes, it is one of the best appointed hotels in teh city. Of the 450 rooms, 300 have bath rooms, and all have electric lights. The ventilation is unique. On each floor is an experienced attendant with a complete hotel office for the thirty-seven rooms under his charge, with call-board and telephone at hand. A rotunda, with circular settees, fronts his station. A fine view of the lake is obtained from the upper floors. The elevators are of modern design and take guests to lettered rooms from “M,” the office floor, to “A,” the top floor. Space is economized to a degree, and every inch made to count.
The room carpets are Lancaster Biglow. The rooms are furnished with the same marble and bronze work as the halls and corridors. A unique feature is furnishings. On every floor the thirty-seven rooms are carpeted and furnished each in a different style. The room directly below a given number is furnished like the one above it. Thus, “A 26” is furnished with a blue carpet, oak folding bed, marble stand, plush curtains, and bath, and each room below, thus “B 26” and “C 26,” for instance, are furnished exactly like it.
U Floor Plan of the Great Northern Hotel.
Equipment of the Chambers.
Of the 450 rooms, 300 have folding, seventy-five brass, and seventy-five regular beds of the latest pattern. Between the rooms are double doors. The halls are carpeted with Scotch Axminster. Like the rooms, they are heated by steam and have gas and electric lights, marble mantels, mirrors, and white oak wood work. A writing desk is in each room to accommodate guests. The windows are heavily curtained and all rooms are fitted in the best style, the choice being only in the distance from the street.
Elegant bridal chambers are on floors K and L. Suites of three rooms each have been fitted out at a cost of the $5,000 a suite. The walls are of plush and satin, the ceilings are artistically painted, the furniture is of prima vera white mahogany, with pianos to match, and each suite has gold-plated tables, with onyx top, and plated electric chandeliers. The bedsteads are of god-plated brass, and the blankets are hand worked in silk. There are four of these suites on floors K and L, in the pink, yiellow, blue, and green rooms.
There are eight dining rooms in the building, all fitted out with exquisite taste. A spiral marble and bronze staircase communicates from thje parlor floor to the top. The pink, green and blue rooms were designed to distance anything heretofore attempted in their line. The center one, the blue room, is fitted with imported tapestry and hand paintings on the walls and silk and plush hangings over heavy plate-glass windows. French bric-a-brac adorn the center and corners of the rooms. Divided from the blue room by sliding doors are the pink and green parlors, with similar satin and plush walls and painted ceiling and with the addition of heavier window draperies and finer mirror effects. Following these comes the terra cotta room, furnished in plush and silver.
The Parlor Floor Café.
The café on the parlor floor is fitted in mahogany, with mirrors in all open places, plush hangings and aluminum electric fixtures. It has a silver and cut glass service of the latest design. The seating capacity of this room is 250.
The rotunda of the hotel is 75 feet square, 50 feet high, and is covered with a glass and steel dome. It is lighted by 500 incandescent lights, many of them bedded among the ferns and plants at the base of the pillars and on the balcony, producing a pleasing effect. The railing around the balcony is bronze, capped with plush. The St. Baun marble pillars extend to the office floor. On the east wall are paintings by master artists of “The Golden Gate,” San Francisco; “New York Harbor,” and “Chicago,” the last being in the center, the intention being to represent the three great commercial cities of the world. At the entrance in the parlor-floor cafe is a farm scene by H. H. Cross, and as one descends the stair-case he gazes upon Frank R. Green’s celebrated painting of the “Death of Juliet,” which is considered by the management as one of the most valuable of their collection.
The billiard hall is claimed to be the finest in the West. One of the fifteen tables was used at the Slosson-Ives championship at Central Music Hall recently. Here the companion picture of the “Death of Juliet” adorns the walls. It is entitled “Francesca da Rimini,” Lawrence Barrett’s last play in Chicago.
“The Temple of Bacchus.”
From the billaird hall a step leads into what is said to be by all odds the finest saloon in the West, if not the world. It is called the “Temple of Bacchus.” The room is fifty-five feet square, built after the idea of the Roman temple to Bacchus, the god of wine. The frieze, in bronze figures, is said to be an exact reproduction of the Roman temple carvings. The walls are of Oriental Champlain marble, ornamented with poaintings form the Roman sports. The center trellis work and grape vines and fruit in bronze, are hand work of the most costkly pattern. The bar is unique and handy in its appointments and of solid Oriental marble, protected by heavy railings of the same material. Roman columns of Champlain marble support the bronze figure-work. For light, electricty and painted plate-glass have been utilized, so that the effect is like a sunset streaming softly through a flowered trellis, making a unique and very pleasant effect around the marble and silver mirrors and cut-glass of the square bar proper. The proprietors of the hotel claim there is nothing in the world to equal their “Temple of Bacchus.”
A white and gold barber shop with modern equipments is at the left of the office, near the public toilet rooms.
The partly finished ladies’ French café at the ladies’ entrance on Quincy street is a large room, now being used by the Cleveland club of Buffalo. After the club leaves the final ornamentation will be done. When complete this will be the most expensive café in the world. The walls are of onyx and marble, with hand-painted tapestry, and ceiling painted in blue and gold. Specially designed white mahogany tables and chairs will be the furnishings. The solid silver, gold, crystal, and china services will be from special designs.
The office appointments are such as years of hotel experience have proved to be best. The entire system is as perfect as human ingenuity can make it.
In the basement is an oyster and grill room for those who are economically inclined. This is the largest room in the building and has entrances from Quincy and Jackson streets and from the hotel office. The seating capacity is 300. It is finished in white Italian marble, with white and gold finishings, mirrors, and gold-plated electric fixtures. The woodwork is of white oak and leather, and 500 bell-shaped electric-lights cast shadows on the wide entrances of Oriental marble. A white marble bar is at the north end.
The kitchen is complete in its appointments. A room with a silver service valued at $35,000, a vault with 100 different varieties of wines, a bakery, a meat market, a grocery, and a laundry are some of the departments.
The estimated cost of the hotel building is $1,200,000; furniture, $300,000. The entire plant, with ground, is placed at $2,500,000.
Rand McNally & Co.’s Bird’s-Eye Views and Guide to Chicago, 1893
The Great Northern Hotel
At Dearborn, Jackson, and Quincy streets, on the northeast corner of Jackson and Dearborn, is a high steel structure that preserves many canons of old-style proportions. Like the Rookery, the Siegel-Cooper, and the First National, the Great Northern is impressive on the lines of grace and beauty. The dimensions of this colossal structure are as follows: Front on Dearborn, 165 feet; depth on Jackson and Quincy, 100 feet; height, 185 feet; 16 stories and white marble basement. In this hotel are 500 rooms, 8 dining-rooms, cafe, and 6 elevators. A prize was publicly offered for a name, and given to the suggestor of the title “The Chicago.” This title was abandoned for the present one. The plan of entertainment is strictly European. The appointments and modern character of this hotel give it a conspicuous place among the sights and conveniences of Chicago. The proprietors are Hulbert & Eden, highly experienced and well-known landlords. Erected in 1891, at a cost of $1,150,000.
Inland Architect, September, 1896
THE NEW GREAT NORTHERN— A TEMPLE OF HOSPITALITY, BUSINESS, AMUSEMENT AND FESTIVITY.
The new and enlarged Great Northern is now almost an accomplished fact. There was the Great Northern Hotel, to which name the words “Fire Proof” were added. But such an appellation for any hostelry that claims to be first-class and up-to-date now “ goes without saying.” There is also the Great Northern office building and roof garden, and there soon will be the Great Northern Theater and Banquet Hall. All of these are now united between four walls, and the aggregation fronts on Dearborn, Jackson and Quincy streets, covering an area of 200 by 165 feet. They are coordinate branches of one great establishment, all connected together by internal communications in proper places, and mutually interdependent, while each having a special function to perform, is equally accessible from the public streets. The observer will note that they form a harmonious combination, as if conceived as a whole by one brain. Yet the original hotel, fronting on Dearborn street, has been in use several years, and was planned without any anticipation of the additions that have been built. These occupy the east part of the site, and have fronts on Jackson and Quincy streets of one hundred feet each, and up to the seventh story of the original building cover the whole ground, while above this point the north and south portions extend up to sixteen stories in height, with fronts on both streets and a court between, which is an extension of the original court of the hotel to the eastward, forming the largest interior court faced with enameled bricks in the city of Chicago.
The original hotel building and all the additions have been designed and carried out under the direction of D.H. Burnham & Co., architects. The extension to the hotel part has a frontage of 100 feet on Quincy street, and is carried back 40 feet up to the seventh story; above this it is 52 feet deep. The reason why this enlarged depth is obtained in the upper stories will be explained further on in connection with some ingenious features of planning and construction. Through the first story of this part is the main entrance to the theater, also the stage entrance and a separate entrance to the second balcony. The extension on the Jackson street side has a street frontage of 100 feet and extends back 40 feet up to the seventh story, and above this 52 feet. This enlargement above the seventh story is due to a system of construction the same as that used in the hotel extension. Both extensions are sixteen stories high above the basement. The Jackson street extension is a separate office building, containing 225 offices. On the first story are four retail stores and entrances to the offices, as well as an additional entrance to the ground floor and first balcony of the theater. These entrances are connected by a corridor which extends to the hotel office. There are three elevators at the entrance to the offices, which extend up above the roof into a penthouse, which opens out into the roof garden. The latter covers the whole of the office building, and is roofed and inclosed by awnings which are removed in the winter.
On the Quincy street side is a new ladies’ entrance with two elevators, which also run above the roof. In the sixteenth story is the new dining room of the Great Northern Hotel. Immediately above this on the roof is being constructed a conservatory of steel and glass, which is to be used as a banquet hall, having the same connection with the new kitchen to be built on the roof of the old hotel part as the dining room.
Between the two extensions is the new Great Northern Theater, which is 100 feet in length and 85 feet in width between the walls, with entrances from Quincy and Jackson streets at the west end, the stage being at the east end. The latter is 34 by 85 feet on the ground, and extends upward from the cellar grade, which is 14 feet 6 inches below the street grade, 73 feet to the under side of the roof. It has two steel fly galleries and a steel gridiron. The balance of the space, 85 by 62 feet, is the auditorium with its two balconies and three tiers of proscenium boxes on each side.
In addition to the above, the hotel company has purchased the five-story building, No. 14 Quincy street, and is reconstructing the same into a Turkish bath house, including a swimming bath in the basement.
In the construction of the new parts of the Great Northern aggregation some of the most interesting problems that beset the modern architect have been solved. The new additional structures stand between the original hotel, which is of nearly equal weight and has already settled from nine to ten inches, according to the original calculations, and two other old-style buildings which came to their permanent bearings many years since. Yet the new part fills the whole intermediate space, and it has been required to provide for the necessary settlement of the new building while regarding the safety and avoidance of disturbance of two classes of contiguous buildings. When it is understood that the estimated settlement of the new structure was nine inches, the difficulty in doing this can be readily appreciated. As a matter of fact, the Jackson street addition has settled nine inches and the Quincy street addition has settled six inches. But the former has now its full weight, while the latter has not yet attained its full weight, and the construction has been slower. The theater which stands between is therefore three inches lower on the south than on the north side, but as its whole construction is sufficiently elastic, nothing has to be feared while waiting for the north side to go down three inches more. But another difficulty had to be overcome. By the operation of the building law of Chicago all theaters must have independent walls, and the proscenium wall must be built of brick and closed in over the opening. This made it necessary to build the theater with heavy walls all around and across, and consequently of great weight, while it was necessary on account of the great height of 200 feet to make all the rest of the structure of steel frame construction. Here was a case where the heavy brick walls of one part had to be built before the weight could be distributed over other parts. But the elastic system of steel framing made this feasible, so that now the weights are nearly all on, there is no evidence of any rupture between the parts which have settled rapidly or slowly. It would take a long treatise to fully describe all that has been done to preserve the integrity of this and the older adjoining buildings. It is enough to know that there is no evidence of its having in any way affected the neighboring structures. All the foundations are of course independent of the older ones, and the steel columns built next to the old east wall of the Great Northern Hotel are still carried on steel screws resting on the new foundations, ready to be adjusted either way to preserve the proper position of both buildings. The wall of the building on the east side, fronting on Jackson street, still has a row of intermediate screws between itself and the new foundation of the office building on which it rests, ready to be lengthened as fast as the foundation settles.
The most novel and interesting part of the steel construction is in the roof of the theater. This is of steel trusses bearing on solid brick walls. It has been mentioned that the new buildings which front on the streets are deeper in the lower than in the upper stories. Consequently the theater building is wider than the open court that is above it. This difference is twenty-six feet. When the brick walls at the sides of the theater had been built and the roof constructed to carry all that might be above it, all the requirements of the theater ordinance had been complied with. But there was not room enough for an economic arrangement of apartments in the office part or hotel above the sixth floor, while the court would be unnecessarily wide. The court, therefore, was narrowed so that the walls are in line with those of the older part of the hotel building. The trusses were made strong enough to carry the skeleton construction and enamel brick-faced wall of nine stories, and they were divided into panels so as to bring the weight at the ends of the first panels from the bearing plates. At the bottom line of the trusses the ceiling of the theater is a complete hollow tile fireproof floor, and the trusses are all completely inclosed in hollow tile partitions to effectually protect this vulnerable part of the construction. The whole scheme has been approved by the board of underwriters.
The exterior achitectural treatment of the Quincy street front is an exact repetition of the original hotel building executed in red terra cotta and brick, but two stories higher. The Jackson street front has been treated as if it were a separate building, on account of the distinctive character of the use to which it is put, and this is executed in white terra cotta. The style is fifteenth century Gothic, and the treatment is extremely ornate, a method which seems to lend itself better to the finish of skeleton construction than any other. The front has the advantage of several points of view which will not be encroached upon, notably that from Plymouth place.
We live in a period of condensation of time and space. An immense city springs into existence in less time than it would take to build a single temple in olden times, and the electric cars and the world-conquering bicycle bring the extremities close to the pulsating heart of the metropolis. A few weeks sufficed to conceive and complete the plans for this great building, and soon the glowing iron shot forth from the embrace of powerful rollers, the plastic clay took shape and form, forever now preserved by the petrifying flame, and as the giant’s mighty skeleton arose, so grew with it the flesh and skin and stately garment. And there he stands, beautiful and strong, equally defying fire and water, wind and weather.
Two materials are necessary for the successful construction of our skyscraper—steel and terra cotta. Steel it must be to create a rigid, immovable frame; terra cotta it must be because there is no other material which, with the quality of being fireproof, combines absolute durability and at the same time offers to the architect such unlimited opportunities for artistic expression in form and color. Neither stone nor brick nor any other known building material combines in itself all these advantages. The use of ornamental terra cotta, together with steel construction, in such quantities and its manufacture according to special design in the course of a few months is strictly new and American, and no European city can boast of a similar edifice. The European architect would find no terra cotta factory that could carry out his conceptions of a prominent building except years could be consumed for the purpose, while Chicago contains a plant—the North-Western Terra-Cotta Company—which can produce a score of similar structures in one year. And still it is all hand work. With the exception of the preparation of clay and the application of glaze and enamel, no machine work has ever been successfully applied to the manufacture of architectural terra cotta. To any one who knows that, substantially, terra cotta is nothing but burned clay, it may seem an easy matter to mold and burn it according to requirements, but in practice this is a rather complicated process. There is a drawing department, where every feature is carefully laid out, subdivided, profiled and scheduled, where every joint, every check for iron, every anchor hole is indicated on the working diagrams. There is a carpenter shop where templets are made, a plaster shop where plaster models and molds are produced, a modeling room where the sculptor lends plastic form to his interpretation of the architect’s sketches of ornamentation. There is the clayworkers’ department, where the soft clay is pressed into the required forms and where intricate pieces are built up of clay and fitted together under many difficulties. There is the drying room where the finished pieces are carefully dried in various positions, in order to preserve their correct outlines. There are the complicated ovens, where by an immense but uniform gradually increasing and decreasing heat, the indestructible silicates are produced which transform into everlasting terra cotta the fragile pieces of dried clay. There is, finally, the fitting room where all burned work is carefully fitted together in order to let it all go into the proper place in the building without delay at the scaffold where skilled mechanics set it up at the rate of several stories a week. The result of all these varied and complicated manipulations, performed by men who have become experts in their respective branches, all working in strict cooperation under experienced supervision, is, in this case, a most beautiful Gothic front, fireproof and imperishable, made according to the designer’s most delicate conception of detail, and set up and securely fastened to the iron frame—all within about three months, by the North-Western Terra-Cotta Company, of Chicago.
The large light court of the Great Northern Theater and Hotel Building is faced with white enameled brick, manufactured by the Tiffany Pressed Brick Company, of this city. Over one hundred thousand of these bricks were used, besides a considerable quantity in blue and white in the hallway leading to the stage entrance. The enameled surface of these bricks is made to withstand the severest climatic changes, hence their suitability for exterior as well as interior uses; in fact, wherever light, cleanliness, durability and artistic shadings of color are desired.
Not only is this material very largely used in light courts, rail-way stations, etc., but its adaptability for fine fronts is becoming recognized. One great advantage in the use of enameled bricks, is in their being impervious to moisture, and the avoidance of all unsightly white effloresence which so often disfigures walls constructed of other materials.
The enameled bricks manufactured at heeds, England, have always held the highest place in the minds of architects, but they are rapidly being displaced in this country by the Tiffany enamel, which has reached a perfection difficult to surpass, by strict attention to all details essential to a perfect article. This company has just placed on the market a “granite” shade of enamel brick worthy of the special attention of architects.
The brown pressed bricks for the Quincy street front were made and furnished by the Chicago Hydraulic-Press Brick Company, whose works are at Porter, Indiana, and whose sales of pressed brick last year in Chicago were upward of twenty million. A large number of the bricks were made from special molds, and form the rounded jambs of the windows and the rounded external and internal angles of the bays. The bricks are entirely free from the white discoloration which so often appears on buildings of brown brick of other manufacture throughout the city ; this same freedom from discoloration will also be noticed in the Marquette building, which also contains Chicago Hydraulic-Press brown brick. The high quality of these bricks is due to the careful study and selection of the clay from which they are made, the thorough seasoning of the clay before the bricks are pressed, the tremendous pressure on the bricks in the machine, the high and carefully regulated temperature under which they are burned, and the care which is taken in selecting the bricks before they leave the works.
A great deal of originality was displayed in the finishing of the ornamental iron elevator inclosures, which are a combination of nickel-plate and bower-barff (or more properly speaking, magnetic oxide). The architect has designed this part of the work in the Gothic style, arranging the wrought-iron work in grilles or panels between uprights (or pilasters) and cross-pieces of ornamental cast iron. All the wrought iron is finished in dead black or oxidized, while the cast iron is heavily electroplated in nickel. The handsomely wrought grille work is shown off most advantageously by the luster of the nickel finish on the cast iron, which entirely surrounds each separate grille as though it were a frame. The whole work forms a beautiful effect and one that is pleasant to look upon. The inclosures above the first floor are not so elaborate, although in the same style as the first floor, and are finished in black. In the main hall on the first floor is a letter-box, used in connection with the mailing chute. This is admirably executed in cast iron, richly ornamented and finished in bower-barff. The stairways throughout this portion of the building follow the style of the other work (Gothic) and are of cast iron, with cast-iron risers, newels and railings. They are made in keeping with the general excellence of the rest of the work. All the interior ornamental ironwork for this whole building was made by the splendid young firm of artisans, the Chicago Architectural Iron Works, M. Salomon, president, Oakley avenue and Kinzie street, Chicago, Illinois.
The tinting, painting and woodwork finishing of the hallways and the four hundred and forty rooms and offices of this building were done by the Nesbett Company, of 360 Wabash avenue, Chicago.
The electrical plant will be one of the most interesting features of the building. Its capacity to supply the necessary power will be as great as the largest plant in the West. The dynamos, furnished by the Western Electric Company, are three 150-kilowatt, direct-connected units, of the multipolar ironclad type. They will operate at a speed of 280 revolutions per minute. The armatures of the dynamos are mounted on separate shaft, with a bearing on each side of the armature. Connection is made with the engine shaft by means of a flexible coupling. The sub-bases of the dynamos are mounted on I-beams, which form a part of the engine foundation. The usual adjustments are allowed for centering the armatures and aligning the fields. These machines are equipped with carbon brushes, self-oiling bearings, and are over compound wound for five per cent, which is the loss in the wiring system. The frames of these machines are made of cast steel; the pole pieces of forged steel; the field coils are wound on brass frames made in such a manner that they are easily removed in case of accident. The machines will be connected to a marble switchboard equipped with Weston instruments.
Automatic circuit breakers will be used between the dynamo and switchboard in place of fuses. These will be made single pole, one on each side of the circuit. All connections between dynamo and switchboard are to be in lead cable underground, and all connections from circuits will be run in iron pipes concealed from view as far as possible.
The wiring of this building is on the three-wire convertible system, and all wires from the switchboard to lamp outlets are incased in insulated iron pipe. The mains are rubber-covered wire with a lead casing, the service for each floor being tapped off to the cut-out box. By means of the new system of connection, the maximum difference of potential between any two lights at the point they are tapped on to the cut-out box is but .25 of one volt, making the difference in candle-power so small between the lamps on the top and bottom floors that it would be almost impossible to detect it with the most delicate instruments. The cut-out boxes are made of j^-inch marble equipped with plug fuses, and are provided with ornamental iron doors.
The lights in the different offices are controlled by push switches conveniently located. In the hotel rooms there are provided both automatic door switches and flush push switches in the rooms.
The engines are to be furnished by Westinghouse, Church, Kerr & Co., Chicago, and consist of three Westinghouse compound engines, with cylinders 14 inches and 24 inches in diameter, by 14 inches stroke of piston, space being allowed for one more unit to be placed later. With the steam pressure to be carried they will develop 230 horse-power each, and being entirely self-lubricating, are capable of making long continuous runs without stoppage or attention.
The flexible spring couplings for connecting engines and dynamos are so designed as to give great flexibility between engine and dynamo shafts, obviating the necessity of bed-plates.
These engines were chosen after a very careful investigation, on account of their great reliability and guaranteed economy for this kind of service. This fine economy was not only guaranteed, but, following the general custom of the Westinghouse Company, an actual test of the engines was made at their factory in Pittsburg, under the supervision of Mr. Charles G. Armstrong, consulting engineer, at which test the steam consumption per horse-power per hour was over a pound less than guaranteed, showing the reliability of a guarantee made by a company willing to base it upon an actual test made at the works before shipment. This form of guarantee is peculiar to the Westinghouse Company, and very few of any other engine concerns have facilities at their works for making such complete tests for actual conditions under which the engines will operate. They further invite any prospective customer for engines to visit their shops and make such tests as they may desire, and to inspect their thorough system of testing all material that enters into the construction of their engines.
The general plan of the hot water piping to supply the hot water to all the rooms of the hotel baths, kitchen and laundry, is so arranged that there is a continual circulation of the hot water to every faucet in the building, so that there is no “waiting for the cold water to run out of the pipe,” before the hot water comes, and in addition there is a reserve of many thousand gallons of fully heated water always on hand. There are two feed-water heaters 1,000 horse-power each, 54 inches diameter by 14 feet long, and weighing seven tons each. They are of the horizontal brass tube steam jacket type. One supplies the boilers with feed-water at 212° Fahr. and the other is capable of furnishing the building with 15,000 gallons of hot water per hour at from 180° to 200° Fahr.
The heater that supplies the boilers is provided with every facility for examination, cleaning and blowing off. It is estimated that the saving in fuel by the thorough utilization of the exhaust in these heaters will more than repay the first cost of their installation each year. This splendid plant was manufactured in all its details at the iron and boiler works of Messrs. Baragwanath & Son, of 48, 50 and 52 West Division street, Chicago.
The electrical plant, steam, hot water and general details of machinery installation are under the direct supervision of Mr. Charles G. Armstrong, consulting engineer, of Chicago.
Many of the most important interests of the building are in the hands of Messrs. John & Alex Davidson, and are being conducted in a very efficient manner, and when the building is fully completed Chicago will have a noteworthy addition to her buildings.
Chicago Tribune, December 29, 1895
BUILDING OF THE YEAR
Chicago has not fared well In the way of new buildings when previous years are taken into comparison. A vast amount of building was done in the period before the World’s Fair and each year s record still suffers by a comparison with that. Cost of buildings in 1895 has been satisfactory as compared with last year, while tite number of buildings and the amount of frontage involved have shown a decrease. Among the more prominent buildings of the year are the Fisher, the Great Northern Hotel Theater and office, the Studebaker, Lewis Institute, and the Davies.
On a piece of property l00x100 feet in size, extending from Jackson to Quincy street, and 100 feet east of the present Great Northern Hotel, the theater, office building, and addition to the hotel will be built. On the Jackson street side will be the office , on the Quincy street portion the continuation of the hotel, with the theater in between. The office building will extend back forty-five feet. It will he sixteen stories high and will contain 300 offices. A connection will be established with the present hotel. The entrance to the office will be at the extreme eastern end of the property and will be twenty feet wide. The Quincy street frontage, containing the hotel addition, will be a continuation of the floors as they are at present. The annex will be sixteen stories high—two stories higher than the main building. The rooms will be large and well finished. New cafes and banquet halls will be erected. with the idea of making the hotel a European and American one combined instead of simply a European one. as it is at present. The addition will contain 300 rooms and the elevators will he changed about so as to reach the whole building. Entrance to the theater, finished in white Mexican onyx, will be on both Jackson and Quincy streets. The interior of the theater will have a seating capacity of 2,000 and will have three balconies and a large stage. Retiring rooms for women are planned for the right side of the interior and smoking rooms for men on the left, with foyer between. The stage will face towards the main hotel. D. H. Burnham & Co. were the architects for the improvement. The building will be entirely fireproof. The drops on the stage will be on steel rollers in frames, and all the scenery will be of asbestos. One million dollars is estimated as the cost.
The Great Northern Hotel lobby after the brand new Aeolian organ was installed.
Chicago Chronicle, September 19, 1897
CAT IN A PIPE ORGAN.
Unusual Experience of a Hotel Cat in a Music Box.
A few nights ago, when the big Aeolian at the Great Northern began its usual evening programme, it didn’t seem to work just right. The Aeolian was doing its level best to play the wedding march from Lohengrin, but made an awful mess of it.
The first strain, which everyone remembers goes “Rum-tum-te-tum,” was followed by “Meouw-wow-ow.” All the crowd looked up at the organ and tried to locate the spot where the unusual accompaniment came from. The next strain of the march was followed by a screeching yowl that was heard clear up to the “G” floor. People at dinner dropped their knives and forks and looked nervously at each other and then at the doors and windows. Just as the third yell came out of the Aeolian, Proprietor Eden was seen on the second floor, stealthily moving toward the instrument with a ladder in his hand. Mr. Eden crept up close to the Aeolian and listened for a moment. Then he put his ladder against the right side and slowly made his way to the top.
When he got up he reached over and put his hand down inside of the E flat pipe. There were no results at first. Then he stood on tiptoe and shoved his arm to the shoulder down the mouth of the pipe. There followed a terrible yowling and scratching, but the Colonel pulled, and with a noise like the departure of a tight cork from the neck of a beer bottle, he pulled the hotel cat out of the pipe and carried it down to the baggage room, where it belongs.
The Aeolian Pipe Organ installed in the Great Northern Hotel in 1896.
The instrument was 22 feet wide, 8 feet deep, and 19 feet high.
Inter Ocean, December 29, 1897
As the great pipe orgaqn i the Great Northern hotel was pealing forth “There’s a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight,” the opening number in the daily concert last evening, a sheet of flame shot forth from the instrument followed by volumes of smoke, which grew more dense every minute, and in afew moments the instrument, valued at $15,000, was a charred wreck, while the surrounding decorations were damaged to the extent of several thousand dollars more.
For fifteen or twenty minutes great volumes of smoke rolled through the corridors and rooms, an unpleasant reminder of the Tosetti cafe fire. There was a commotion among the 450 guests. Bell boys went flying from room to room notifying the guests that there was a fire and it would be well prepared to move out quickly, but they ended up their warning with the assurance that there was little likelihood that the fire would escape from the organ-loft.
The tables in the restaurant on the parlor floor were deserted, and there was a general hustling of effects into trunks and valises preparatory to9n a hurried exit.
Caused by a Candle.
All this loss and excitement was caused by three workmen who were adjusting the organ earlier in the afternoon and carelessly left a lighted candle inside. The candle burned down to the wood in which it had been set and set fire to the valuable instrument.
Just before the fire was discovered at 5:20 o’clock attention was called to the organ by a series of discordant noises wholly different from the accepted version of “A Hot Time,” and several persons standing in the lobby were glancing in amazement at the instrument when the flame leaped forth. Among the first to see it was Martin McMahon, a bell boy, who told the clerk, James A. Glorbrey, and the latter quickly gave a general alarm to the employes.
William S. Eden, manager of the hotel, was standing talking to Frank C. Thayer, Hoyt’s advance man, and both men rushed to the organ loft. Colonel Eden called for the fire extinguishers, and he and Thayer and a guest named Count Rocco Duanovitch of Austria, joined by employes, attempted to stop the flames. But the wood in the organ was dry, and no headway was made toward stopping the fire. Finally the stepladder on which Colonel Eden and the two guests who were assisting him, fell, and they went down in aheap.
In the meantime, as the smoke rolled out into the lobby, the people there took alarm and made a rush for the doors. The main entrance on Dearborn street is guarded by a revolving door, and there the crowd stuck.
This nearly precipitated a panic, the frightened men pushing and fighting like a lot of crazy people for a few minutes, until it became evident that there was no danger.
Firemen Play on the Organ.
Colonel Eden, having become convinced he could not control the fire with his hotel force, after experimenting twenty minutes, had an alarm turned in and the firemen were soon ripping ther delicate mass of pipe and woodwork to pieces with axes and flooding it with water. It was an obstinate fire to fight, because of the inflammable nature of the organ, the difficulty of reaching the flames, and the good start it had. Its location, however, made it easy to keep it fro spreading, There was nothing above it excepting the glass roof over the office, and there was a brick wall behind it. Still, over an hour of lively work was required to tear the organ to pieces and quell the flames.
Before the firemne had completed their work Colonel Eden had caused the debris to be cleaned away, the water swabbed up, the floor cleaned, and the hotel was doing business very nearly as usual.
During the fire-fighting several firemen were painfully cut about the hands and face by broken glass, among them Thomas Levins, a pipeman of enhine company No. 7. Frank C. Thayer and Rocco Duanovitch, the guests who assisted Colonel Eden, were also slightly injured, the former burning his hand severely, and the latter being slightly injured by a fall from a step ladder. Nobody was seriously injured.
Was a Valuable Instrument.
The orgam which is a total wreck, was placed in position a year and a half ago, having been hurried along to do service during the Democratic national convention. It was built by Farrand & Votey Organ company at the cost of $15,000, and was the first Aeolian pipe instrument placed in a quasi-public building in the world. It was the largest and finest instrument of its kind ever built.
It represented an orchestra of sixty pieces, and was operated by electricity, the motor, a four-and-one-half power affair, being in the basement, 150 feet away. It contained 1,500 pipes. The performer, John R. Kerr, simply took the place of the conductor of the orchestra by registering the various pieces and giving them the tune required, according to the intention of the composer.
The Aeolian was kept in proper condition and tune by the company that made it. This company is represented in Chicago by George Heerwagen, who has an office in the Great Northern hotel. The same company, or its predecessors, built the organ at the Auditorium, McVicker’s theater, Steinway hall, and several churches, and Mr. Heerwagen employs a force of men keeping these instruments in order. It was a gang of these men who did the mischief which resulted in the fire. Three of them were at work on the inside of the Aeolian yesterday afternoon. Instead of following the directions given them and using only incandescent electric lights attached to long wires, which could be carried anywhere inside the organ, they used a candle, which they set on a walking board. Then they went away and forgot the candle, which burned down to the board, and, helped by the melted grease, set fire to the dry woodwork.
This much was ascertained by Mr. Heerrwagen from the boy who attended the gang, but he declined to give the name of the man responsibkle for the fire, stating to a reporter for The Inter Ocean last evening, and he did not know which gang was at work at the Great Northern.
“It is our fault,” said Mr. Heerwagen.
Great Northern Hotel and Detail
The Daily National Hotel Reporter, January 11, 1918
The Great Northern Hotel of Chicago, which, since the retirement of Dick Townsend, has been under the able management of John C. O’Neil, is doing a particularly fine business at the present time, both in rooms and restaurants.
Yet this has not deterred the Northern’s youthful manager in going through the house from cellar to garret on a rehabilitating journey.
The lobby has been redecorated, a minor re-arrangement of the telephone switchboard, porter’s desk, etc., has been effected on this floor; then private office, barber shop, mezzanine and its dining rooms have been touched up and the whole house, from floor to floor in the corridors, has had its wallpaper stripped off and replastered, as have the rooms and suites, without any interruption to business, and with no noticeable discomfort to guests. Before the work is completed all the rooms will be resplendent with newly painted walls, indirect lights and new furnishings.
For the past several weeks the house staff of painters and decorators have labored on the improvements going over the ladies’ parlor, bar, men’s washrooms, etc., and have been unsparing with needed paint. They have already progressed to the upper floors where they are now busily engaged. New wallpaper of a rich gray coloring and new design, has been placed on the newly plastered walls of all corridors. The paper in the rooms has been eliminated and replaced by painted panels in soft colorings. The old fashioned chandeliers in all the rooms are being replaced with new modern indirect fixtures—a silvered hanging chain and white shade in the single and smaller rooms and a handsome ornamental bronzed indorect light with Tiffany shade in the larger rooms and suites.
New metal beds on ballbearing castors, made up with panels in imitation mahogany, the original design of Manager O’Neil will supplant the present ones. New furniture to be shortly selected, will replace most of that now in use.
As before mentioned the house-count at the Great Northern for some time past has been a capacity one. The first of the year also brought many progressive changes in the personnel of the staff, especially in the catering department. These are chronicled elsewhere in this issue.
The lunchroom on the Quincy and Dearborn streets corner, is both popular and profitable. The grill in the basement and the main dining room are well patronized and the handsome private dining room is always in demand. The beautiful organ occupying the entire east wall of the lobby, plays daily during the luncheon hours from 12 to 2 o’clock, appropriate pieces, patriotic and of the present, such as “Over There,” etc.
All in all the Great Northern is being brought “up to the minute” asa modern metropolitan hotel. Its accommodations are of the best and its location on Jackson boulevard and Dearborn streets, nearny tailroad stations, shopping and theater districts, makes it one of the most desirable stopping palces in the city.
Chicago Tribune, January 14, 1940
Another loop landmark, the fifteen story Great Northern hotel, is to be razed. The estate of Marshall Field, after months of deliberation, yesterday announced its decision to replace this famous hostelry with a one story taxpayer.
As in the case if the Capitol building, another pioneer skyscraper supplanted by a taxpayer, the Great Northern will be demolished to avoid heavy expenditures for new foundations necessitated by the Dearborn street subway. Replacement of the present floating foundations with caissons would cost about $150,000, it was said.
Will Erect One Story Building.
A one story building fronting 165 feet on Dearborn street and 100 feet on both Jackson boulevard and Quincy street will be erected at a reported cost of $175,000. According to Ward Farnsworth of the Field estate, the new Great Northern building will be ready abiut the middle of next August.
A novel exterior treatment has been planned by the architects, Shaw, Naess & Murphy, The walls will be entirely of stainless steel. According to Alfred Shaw, this is the first time this metal has been used on such a large scale on a building facade. Heretofore it has been used only on a small scale in wall trim.
Stores and Garage Planned.
The new Great Northern building will have five stores fronting on Jackson boulevard and one at the Dearborn-Quincy corner. The balance of the first floor and the roof will be used for garage purposes, accommodating about 90 cars. The garage will have wide entrances on both Quincy and Dearborn. The entire basement will be leased to one client.
One of the block long subway station hookups between State and Dearborn streets will be under Quincy street. A direct entrance to this station is to be built, connecting it with the Great Northern building, it was said.
Tenants of the present Great Northern hotel building have been notified to move by Feb. 15. Actual wrecking will begin about March 1, it was said.
In 1936 Pick Hotels modernized the bedrooms of the Great Northern Hotel at an expense of several hundred thousand dollars.
Operated by Pick Hotels, Inc.
The hotel part of the present Great Northern building comprising 370 rooms, has been operated since 1936 by Pick Hotels, Inc., as one of a chain of 16 hotels thruout the country.
According to Albert J. Pick Jr., president, he is negotiating for another downtown hotel to be the Chicago unit of the Pick chain. All of the furniture, furnishings, fittings, and equipmnt of the Great Northern hotel are to be disposed of at a private sale. The sale will include several large oil paintings in the the hotel lobby.
The Great Northern hotel, designed by the late Daniel H. Burnham of Burnham & Root, was built in 1891 at a reported cost of $1,150,000. It was said to have been the first completely fireproof hotel in this part of the country.
The Field estate acquired the hotel from 1931 to October, 1936, when the Pick Hotels leased it.
Exterior walls of this one story taxpayer being built on the site of the Great Norther hotel will be of brick painted with black enamel, and aluminum trim. The entrance to the parking section will be white painted brick. Several changes have been made since it was first published in January (above).
Great Northern Hotel
Rand McNally & Co.’s Bird’s-Eye Views and Guide to Chicago
Great Northern Hotel
Sanborn Fire insurance Map
Hello, this was a beautiful hotel. I am doing some geneaology and my great grandfather claimed to be a massuer at the Symonds Turkish baths in this hotel. Is there somewhere I could get more information about this hotel in the early 1900’s?
Sharon Eden says
This is my Great Great Uncle. I never realized his name was so big back then.
My grandmother and grandfather were married in 1908 at the Great Northern Hotel in Chicago.