Hotel Richelieu, Solomon Karpen Building, Findlay, Richelieu Flats
Life Span: 1885-Present
Location: 318 S Michigan Ave
Left: 1887 Richelieu Hotel
Right: 1905 Karpen Building
Chicago Tribune, September 20, 1885
Taking a walk on Michigan boulevard last Sunday afternoon, and being overtaken by the the writer took refuge in the portico of Nos. 187 and 188. He had been there but a few minutes when the door opened and kindly extended an invitation offered to escort him through his latest acquisition, which from this time on will known as The Hotel Richelieu, The Cafe Richelieu, and The Richelieu Art Gallery, a trinity of such marvelous beauty that a brief review was seen will undoubtedly to The Tribune readers.
Mr. Bemis led the way first to the grand parlors of the hotel. To say they are handsomely furnished does not commence to express the lavish expenditure of money in the most modern and artistic decorations that could be executed by Chicago’s leading artist in this line, while the furniture was made and up-bolstered to harmonize; but the furniture and decorations appear to an artist’s eye insignit-cant when compared with the works of art selected by Mr. Bemis in his travels around the world. Oil-paintings by such noted artists as Jacque, Coreos, Kammerer, J. Portielje, Paul Jean Clays, Victor Pollet, Charles Henri Antoinebaron, G. Simoni, Felix Ziem, A. Corelli, James Bradford, W. H. Hilliard, and others. Especially noticeable were two gem watercolor paintings by the celebrated Riva of Milan, and numerous artist proof engravings were arranged around the rooms on the walls and on easels in great profusion, but on proceeding through the hotel we observed elegant = pictures by the above and other artists in every room. While talking about rooms it is apropos to say that every bedroom is furnished and decorated as a parlor, there not being a bedstead in the house, but in place thereof very fine new improved upright folding-beds, with large French plate-glass mirror fronts, none or which cost less than $125; so that guests can invite friends to their rooms and be as comfortable as if in a private parlor. Page after page might be written describing the 120 rooms, with their elegant velvet carpets and rich furniture, etc., but we must now go to the top or sixth floor and say a few words about the art galleries which are located here. They are about 50×60 feet, with two of the finest skylights for the purpose in the country. Here are graceful
curves and decorations finished in Lincrusta Walton, etc.; but why mention such things as the galleries? It is what they contain that mostly interests readers; when it is absolutely and positively known that pictures having a value of over $100,000 are displayed, that statement alone will carry the strongest idea possible of the beauty and character of the galleries’ contents, which are reached from the office floor by an elegant elevator. In a conversation with Mr. Bemis it is very evident he is not only a good judge of art but an acknowledged connoisseur, as his elegant collection most conclusively proves. These galleries will be accessible to the guests of the hotel at all times. A few words about
THE CAFE RICHELIEU,
on the main floor. It is undoubtedly the finest in Chicago, if not in the United States.
The utilization of mirrors, with the elegance of the decorations, combine to make the general effect so rich and vast in appearance that it is evident Mr. Bemis kept both eyes open in his travels, thus adapting the best from all foreign lands and combining in effect something almost wonderful. The floor above the office and café is a series of elaborate club-rooms to accommodate parties of from four to a hundred, and it is safe to predict that in the very near future, when Chicagoans want to entertain in the most recheché manner, The Richelieu will be the rendezvous; in fact, it will be more to Chicago than is Delmonico’s to New York. A few remarks on the china and glassware en passant. Thousands of dollars’ worth of these articles (which to describe each individual piece would fill a page of The Tribune), plates costing $75 each, sets of China with the crowns and monograms of Louis Philippe and Louis Napoleon, etc. A dinner for twenty-five persons could use china and glassware that cost over $2,500. But enough. In conclusion it can be said from personal observation that the tout ensemble is so superior to anything heretofore seen on this continent that readers who appreciate art will be proud to show Chicago’s latest acquisition to her already famous reputation. Such elaborate belongings must of necessity be supplied with the finest and best service in every department, consequently the waiters engaged are experienced Swiss; the head cook and his assistants are all artists in their line. The wine cellars are filled with the most choice vintages of the world in endless variety.
The office or working management will be under the control of Mr. George W. Cone, who is one of the partners, as is also Mr. Hiram Cheesbro, who sees to the stewardship of the house. Both these gentlemen are favorably and widely known to the traveling public. The opening of this elegant European Hotel, cafe, and art gallery oceurs on Monday, the 28th of September.
Chicago Tribune, September 27, 1885
The opening of this hotel will take place on Thursday, October 1, instead of tomorrow, as previously announced.
Mr. H. V. Bemis having secured forty of the finest Jersey cons in this country, the butter, cream, and milk used by the Hotel Richelieu will be unsurpassed for quality and purity. This now famous herd of beautiful Jerseys have been named and will hereafter be known as The Richelieu Hotel Jersey Herd. Our friends can see them at all times by calling at the “Richelieu Farm” of B. Gansel, Hyde Park.
1887 photo of South Michigan Avenue. In the order of their sequence may be seen the old Leland Hotel, the Hotel Richelieu, the Masury Building, the Hotel Victoria, the Art Institute, and the Studebaker Building (the Fine Arts Building).
Inter Ocean, October 4, 1885
“America’s Finest European Hotel” Such is the Unhesitating Verdict of All.
To Mr. H. V. Bemis Chiongo has long given the honor due a son distinctively her own in enterprise, daring and success, and we can not doubt that the same pride now animates, only in fuller measure, this great and rich metropolis in contemplation of the crowning compliment and benefit done her by this most public-spirited citizen and capitalist. In the olden time to build in one’s city a triumphal arch was to deserve well of the republic; and what else but this has Mr. Bemis now done in lifting to completion the massive walls and equipping the gorgeous interior of a motel that proclaims Chicago to be indeed the capital of the great interior, with needs and appreciation not a whit behind New York as regards liberal provision and patronage of first-class institutions of entertainment and refreshment. New York has her Delmonico’s, so it was fit that the past week Chicago should welcome her Hotel Richelieu, and The Inter Ocean publicly this morning thanks Mr. Bemis for his grand venture of faith just thrown open in all its glory, and for his determination that no expense shall be spared on his part to uphold this honor of our city. Accustomed as he is to large transactions and habituated to success, it can not but be that our people, who always admire pluck and nerve and public spirit, will co-operate in their characteristic, generous style in assuring the enterprise signal success.
No better location for this lineal European hotel in America could have been selected than the spot chosen, Nos. 187-88 Michigan avenue, overlooking, as it does, our inland sea and lakeside park, and facing Chicago’s most popular drive and boulevard, while at the same time so convenient to the heart of the city; and here Mr. Bemis has expended a large fortune, as one can readily understand on viewing. as we did yesterday, the splendid result. There are two six-story and ground-floor buildings, the rear one separated from that in front, for purposes of absolute protection against fire, by a fourteen foot glass-covered court, across which a hall, way of easy passage runs at each story; and throughout the hotel there is the same originality of treatment. The massive front is imposing, with its, heroic statue in marble of Cardinal Richelieu, but it is upon the interior, in its great branches of hotel, café, and art gallery, that money has been lavished Like water in carrying out the proprietor’s ideal of an “hotel with all the luxuries, elegance, and comfort of the palatial private residence,” and here undoubtedly will be the favorite resort of our people when they would dine down town, say after theater, with friends in the finest manner or exhibit to outside visitors one of the prides and institutions of the town, and its mission wit ever be to cater to the “best people in the city”—to the same class of patronage as that of the Brunswick, Hoffman, Gilsey, and St James in New York.
With Mr. Bemis as proprietor, and giving his personal supervision, Messrs. George W. Cone and Hiram Cheesbro are associate partners and managers, and thus the working management is assigned to the best possible hands. Both of these experienced gentlemen have long resided in Chicago, and successfully discharged important trusts. As general manager of the Hotel Richelieu, Mr. Cone will not be less popular with his many business acquaintances and friends, both in town and country, and Mr. Cheesbro, who supervises the cuisine, has been all his life in the hotel business,
Chicago by Day and Night. The Pleasure Seeker’s Guide to the Paris of America, 1892”
A block north of the Auditorium is the Richelieu, the famous hostelry the destinies of which are presided over by the renowned “Cardinal” Bemis. For people of means, to whom money is less of an object than the engagement of luxuries, the Richelieu, they say, is the place par excellence at which to stop. Some notable people have honored the Richelieu with their presence, and one is just as liable to run plumb against a real, live English Lord or Italian Marquis within its doors as against a plain, everyday American citizen. Sara Bernhardt selects the Richelieu when in the city; so does Mrs. Langtry when the confines of her private car become too narrow for comfort. The Richelieu is famous for the rare pictures that adorn its walls, some of which are worth small fortunes, and also—whisper this with bated breath. Oh, ye irreverent!—for its wine cellars, which are stocked with some of the rarest and costliest vintages to be found on the entire continent. On state occasions, when the Cardinal is entertaining some choice party of notables, he is wont to disappear suddenly, absent himself for about fifteen minutes and then reappear with a quaint-shaped bottle or two in either hand covered with cobwebs. Those who sample the contents of said bottles close their eyes, pat their stomachs softly as the divine liquid glides down their throats, and then shed tears of joy and gratitude to the Cardinal for having given them the happiest moment of their lives. If you are a connoisseur of wines and wish to test your art in judgment thereof, cultivate the acquaintance of the Cardinal, and perhaps he will go down into the cellar for you.
⑨ The Richelieu Hotel
Next south of the Leland, fronts 125 feet on Michigan Boulevard, and is 125 feet deep. The building is 90 feet high, with 6 stories and basement; brick and terra cotta walls. There are 125 rooms and 1 passenger elevator. The furnishing of this hotel, the service, and the indefinable thing called “tone” are such as to attract guests of and large wealth. The great reputation article on ” Hotels ” in this guide mentions some of the characteristics of this hostelry. Erected in 1885.
Inter Ocean, April 2, 1896
HOTEL RICHELIEU TO BE CLOSED.
Property Sold, but Landlord Bemis Will Continue Business.
A final decree was entered yesterday morn-log in the Superior Court in the Richelle Hotel litigation. By the decree the doors of the hotel will be closed in ten days and the property sold in its entirety after the expiration of three weeks.
The proceeds of the sale will be divided between the bondholders who commenced the foreclosure proceedings against the company. The first mortgage bondholders are represented by the Northern Trust Company, the bonds being for $200,000, and the First National Bank is the owner of the second mortgage bonds, which are for $100,000, the bonds being in its possession as security for loans made to H. V. Bemis, the former bolder of these bonds.
By the decree a compromise has been made as to the disposition of the property. The proceeds of the sale of the Masury lease, which covers the southern portion of the hotel, will go to the benefit of the second mortgage bond-holder, the hotel property being sold for the benefit of the first mortgage bondholders. The Masury lease has eleven years to run and this portion of the hotel contains the café dining-room, and a number of handsomely furnished suites.
There is a movement on foot by which Mr. Bemis’ friends will put him in possession of the Masury portion of the Hotel Richelieu, and it is to be hoped that the Richelieu under Mr. Bemis management will not be a thing of the past. Mr. Bemis has done for Chicago what few men have in his line of business; that is generally recognized. The hope is widespread that Chicago may not be without a Hotel Richelieu.
Inter Ocean, January 17, 1899
A deed was recorded yesterday for the sale of the six-story building at Nos. 164 and 155 Michigan avenue, and a leasehold interest for 198 years in the ground, to James F. Meagher. The grantors are Solomon, Oscar, and Adolph Karpen, members of the firm of S. Karpen & Bros., who now occupy the building. The sale was effected about ten days ago, and it is said that Mr. Meagher made the purchase in the interest of the People’s Gaslight and Coke company, which oceupies the bullding next to the south. The consideration was $105,000. The property is 39 feet by 171 feet, east front, on Michigan avenue, 52 feet north of Adams street.
Chicago Tribune, July 10, 1910
Lease Is Feature of Week.
But the one particular feature of the week’s market was the lease by W. K. Cowan & Co. from S. Karpen & Bro. of the Karpen building, formerly the old Hotel Richelieu, at 187-188 Michigan avenue, in the block between Jackson boulevard and Van Buren street and adjoining on the south the Stratford hotel.
The lease is a particularly important one because of the magnitude of the transaction, involving as it does a seven story and basement building fronting 58 feet with a depth of 171 feet, but what gives to it its particular interest is the fact that the lease, which is for ten years and provides for a total rent of $500,000, is on the basis of 4 per cent on a valuation of about $20,000 a front foot, a high water mark in a leasing way along that thoroughfare. The earnings of the Railway Exchange are said to be equivalent to 4 per cent on over $35,000 a front foot, but that is an eighteen story structure and is admittedly on one of the two best corners on Michigan avenue—namely: Jackson boulevard—while the Karpen building is a seven story commercial structure with the most of its renting value on the first floor.
The needs of a growing business are said to be behind the move on the part of Cowan & Co., who are now in the Fine Arts building, but which they will vacate on May 1 next to take possession of their new home. Their coming into the block in which Spalding & Co., Jewelers, are located will add to its prestige as a great retall point.
Karpen & Bros. will move into their new building, now in course of construction at the southwest corner of Michigan avenue and Eldridge place, May 1, 1911.
Chicago Magazine, April 8, 2014
A New Era Begins at Michigan Avenue’s Richelieu Flats
The 1885 building was once a grand hotel, then a furniture warehouse. After years of vacancy, it’s been redeveloped as a set of luxury condos, the last of which just sold.
By Ian Spula
The last of the five luxury units in the Richelieu Flats sold out last week. Two 2,650-square-foot full-floor spreads on the third and fifth floors of the 7-story masonry building, at 318 S Michigan Avenue, were the last to go after 18 months on the market.
The pricier half the pair went for $1,430,000, which was $65,000 above the asking price. Sure, that sounds astonishing. But Millie Rosenbloom, the Baird & Warner agent for the whole building, says, “90 percent of the time when you think you’re looking at a full list price for a new-build or developer conversion, you’re not seeing costs like parking and custom finishes.”
When I snooped around the building last September, model unit 300 was the only space with finishes, so buyers of the other four spaces got the opportunity to customize the look, which often runs up the closing price. They “sat down with the developer to discuss options for cabinetry,” says Rosenbloom, part of what made the process “intimate and emotional…unlike the normal way of doing things.”
Richelieu’s crown jewel, a duplex penthouse with 4,300 square feet of interior space, extra-high ceilings, and a 1,000-square-foot Grant Park-facing roof deck, was such a compelling piece of real estate that it sold completely raw for $2,300,000 in October 2013, five months after listing.
This process all started in March 2013, when Chicago-based LG Development Group purchased of the vacant structure from Louis D’Angelo’s family firm, Metropolitan, which held it since the 1970s. It was known as the the Karpen furniture building at the time, but, more than a century before, it was the Richeleu Hotel—”the famous hotel, endeared to epicures the world over,” as it was described in 1895. It seems fitting that some form of residential use would return at this address, although credit must be given to S. Karpen & Bros for updating the exterior with its sculpted, silky terra cotta.
Working from the wide-open floor plans of a defunct furniture warehouse and showroom made it easy for the developer, also practiced in interior design, to minimize the number of walls in each layout. The model unit presents an open central space that merges living room, dining room, and a marble-clad kitchen. Two bedrooms attach to the common area and a third is down a short hallway, paired with a family room and bathroom. All five units—penthouse included—are drawn up with three-and-a-half bathrooms.
Now that these units are out of the equation, are there other Loop prospects for well-healed buyers hoping for a small-scale, custom find? Nothing compares to the Richelieu project, says Rosenbloom, but nearby is the more formidable but still boutique-y 888 S Michigan, from titans of the early skyscraper Holabird & Roche. Most of the slighter structures of Richelieu’s generation—the early 1880s—have vanished from Michigan Avenue and the Loop’s other desirable drags.
Hotel Richelieu (Karpen Building)
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map