Life Span: 1908-1977
Location: Northwest Corner of La Salle and Madison Streets
Architect: Holabird & Roche
Chicago Examiner, September 5, 1909
The new Hotel La Salle, the largest building of its kind in the United States, will open its doors for business on September 9, but it will be thrown open for inspection on the day previous to a large number of guests who will be specially invited.
This new addition to the great hotels of Chicago marks an epoch in rapid construction, it having been erected and made ready for occupancy in sixteen months from the date of commencing work in the tearing down of old buildings from the ground upon which it stands. May 1, 1908, at midnight saw the starting of the work.
In order to give some idea of the size of this hotel, it might incidentally be stated that it contains a total of 1,172 rooms, of which 1,048 are guests’ rooms nearly, 1,000 of which have baths and all the modern conveniences, and each room has hot and cold running water. The hotel has 178 feel frontage on La Salle and 162 feet frontage on Madison street covering a ground dimension of 29,100 square feet
It is the most conspicuous hotel structure in Chicago, being twenty-two stories high, twenty of them being above ground. It is the tallest hotel in the world. Everything in it is of the finest and best. From the sidewalk to the copper cheneau, crowning the roof, the building measures 260 feet and it towers above all other skyscrapers the most conspicuous object in the downtown district.
From the lake and surrounding country its shining top can be seen a long distance. It is fire-proof, and the steel frame rests on 105 concrete caissons which extend down to bed-rock 110 feet below the street line.
The building is designed after the style of the French Renaissance, with mansard roof, which in itself gives the great structure a striking appearance. Large windows and balconies relieve what would otherwise be a plain front, and give an artistic as well as a striking effect.
La Salle Hotel
Crest of La Salle.
Carved in stone over the main entrance is the crest of Robert Cavalier de La Salle,1 and the entrance is shaded by an extremely handsome Marque, these accessories being innovations in Chicago hotel building.
George H. Gazley will be the manager of the new house, and his ideas were largely followed in the arrangements of the interior. As he has conducted such hotels as the Waldorf-Astoria and the St. Regis of New York, his ideas were considered worth following. Mr. Gazley was largely instrumental in organizing the company which built the hotel and he is one of its stockholders.
It is claimed that this hotel surpasses in elegance and detail any hotel ever before constructed, and in many respects excels the famous St. Regis in New York.
Many color effects of rare warmth and distinction have been worked out. The lobby, the palm garden, the private dining-rooms, the state suite and the buffet all have claims to recognition as comparable with the finest works of the decorators art in the country. Walnut and gold form the crown of the lobby, the walnut beams which cross the high ceiling are heavily carved. Oak beams rib the ceiling of the buffet and between them are set panels in which deep reds and greens are blended.
The writing-room is in English oak, while antique oak enters largely into the interior trimming of the state suite.
$600,000 in Furniture.
It might be of interest to know that it cost $600,000 to furnish this hotel, and that there are 25,000 pieces of furniture in the house, and that it took eightv cars to transport it to Chicago, and that 4.700 pieces of this fur niture are upholstered. All the furniture was made from special designs and the patterns destroyed after the pieces were completed. It might be stated that the general line of decoration throughout the hotel is of the Louis XV style, and that even the silverware and the linen were especially designed.
The main dining-room, however, seventy-six feet long, fifty feet wide and twenty-five feet high, is finished in the sumptuous style of the Louis XIV period, the Corinthian order being used as the basis. The entablature is molded after the fashion then in vogue, and the capitals of the pilasters are foiled with acanthus leaves. The ceiling has richly molded ornaments and in the center is a large painting suggestive of sky and clouds.
The interior woodwork is a masterpiece. The woods used are principally mahogany and red gum, and special care was taken in selection of materials. The mahogany is all beautifully figured, and finished in such a manner as to bring out the effects which the lights and shades in this wood can be made to produce.
The finish of the parlors is in Circassian walnut, displaying variety of color and beauty of workmanship.
Already reservations of over $500,000 have been made in the hotel and more orders for reservations come in with every mail. As has been stated, the house will be informally opened September 8, and between 2 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon the building will be thrown open to the friends of the owners and managers and to hotel people from all over the country, who will be there by invitation. Admission will be only by card.
In the evening the press of Chicago will be given a banquet.
On the evening of September 9 the hotel will be thrown open for inspection. Nearly every table in the big hostelry has been reserved for the opening night, when dinner will be served at 7 o’clock. Here is the table seating capacity of the house in its dining-rooms:
- Main Dining Hall—500
Banquet Hall (Large)—1,000
Banquet Hall (Medium)—600
Banquet Hall (Small)—200
Total Seating Capacity—3,675
In addition there are a number of smaller private dining halls that seat from 50 to 100 each that may be called into use.
Hotel LaSalle Dining Room
Banquet by Illinois State Bar Association to Justices of Supreme Court of Illinois
Oct. 30, 1909
Drug Men to Banquet.
The first large and formal convention to be held at the Hotel La Salle will be that of the United Drug Company, for which reservations have been made of 700 rooms for the 1,000 delegates and their ladies. This convention will be held on September 14, 15 and 16. On the evening of September 16, a banquet prepared for over 1,200 persons will be given in the grand banquet hall on the top floor of the entire Madison street front.
The bankers, during their national convention, have engaged 300 rooms, and 500 members and their wives will occupy them. The bankers’ convention wanted to hold its sessions here, but the management was afraid that the house would not be ready by the time needed, September 9, and therefore only consented to reservations for 500.
Mr. Gazley will be assisted in the management by J. O. Conway Hutchins and John V. Scott, with experiences in the Waldorf-Astoria and St. Regis in New York and Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia. The names of the heads of the various other departments follow:
- Louis A. Haustetter, Steward
Charles Lapperuque, Chef
William Telschow, Maitre de Hotel
Thomas C. Barrows, Superintendent of Service
Miss E. F. McKay, Housekeeper
J. E. Lawrence, Chief Engineer
H. L. Summers, Secretary to Manager
Joseph H. Corey, Superintendent Barber Shop
E. A. Mitchell, Wine Steward.
The laundry is on the twenty first floor, and has a capacity of 60,000 to 75,000 pieces a day. The kitchen, a marvel in its way, was opened August 25.
The hotel represents an invest ment of $6,000,000.
The Hotel La Salle was designed and built by Chicago men. It is a monument to the architectural ability of Chicago. The firm who designed the structure is Holabird & Roche, who designed the Cook County Court House, and the new City Hall, now in course of construction
The Fuller Construction Company, also originally a Chicago concern, were the builders of the hotel.
Chicago Examiner, September 5, 1909
Probably nowhere in the world is there a hotel that begins to compare with the new Hotel La Salle in elegance of appointment or beauty of interior woodwork an d finish. Every floor presents a masterpiece of finishing in coloring and carving. In one respect in particular this magnificent edifice stands unique as a model of modern hotel decorative design, which is the make-up of the corridors of most of the hotels in the county, has been usbstituted the most exquisite and massive effects in rich woods.
The interior woodwork for this hotel is a masterpiece ot milling. The woods used principally mahoany, oak, gray maple aud Circassian walnut, aud special care has bepn taken in the selection of the materials. The mahogany is all beautifully figured, and has been finished in such a manner as to bring out the beautiful effects which the lights and shades in the wood can be made to produce. The red gum also was selected for beauty of figure, and great care has been taken to have every piece thoroughly cured and kiln dried before being used.
The finish in the parlors in the southeast corner of the hotel is particularly beautiful, the Circassiau walnut finish displaying such variety of color and beauty of workmanship that these magnificent rooms add great charm and grace to the already beautiful building.
The variety of the finish of this woodwork, some mahogany, some Circassian walnut, some pine, some antique oak, and some white enamel, has all been so beautifully and tastefully blended that it makes a perfect whole, and the attractive hand carved mantels add the final touch of artistic beauty to an already perfect job of interior woodwork.
In selecting the one firm in Chicago capable of carrying out artistically and with perfect harmony the ideas of the management with regard to the interior trim, it was in keeping with the wisdom exercised in the choice of the balance of the hotel equipment that Hilger & Company with offices at 237 Michigan avenue, should have been chosen to do the work.
The contract with this firm included the lobby, which is executed in Circassian walnut, set off by a large amount of elaborate carving. It is well known that Circassian walnut is one of the costliest woods grown, and the idea of using as little marble as possible in the lobby is not only decidedly new but eminently attractive from the point of view of the beholder. The very unusual produced by the combination of Circassian walnut and gold decorations is a striking one in effect and a radical departure in hotel building.
The gentlemen’s cafe and bar is beautifully executed in oak, with a fumed finish, very heavily and and elaborately carved.
In the principal dining room on the first floor, the French style is carried out, set off by rich decorations.
Mong the restaurants in the basement may be mentioned the German restaurant. This room is done in oak, while the basement restaurant proper is done in gray maple with a very elaborate vaulted ceiling.
The writing room on the first floor is executed in genuine English oak.
The State Suite, on of the most beautiful apartments known to any hotel in the country, has an especially fine dining room done in oak with rich gilding. The parlor in this suite is in enamel in the style of Louis XVI.
The Grand Ball Room, the Banquet Room, and the Palm Room, the Ladies’ Reception Room and the various parlors are all done by Hilger & Company, and will equal if not surpass that of any shown in this country or abroad.
Carpets and Rugs
It is fitting that the richest carpetings and tugs known to either American or foreign manufacture should have been chosen to grace the stately halls, courts and chambers of one of the finest hotels America has yet produced. This magnificent $3,000,000 caravansary is furnished complete with “Hartford Saxony” carpets.
“Falstaff” Bottled Beer
There is a bottled beer—that is known as the “choicest product of the brewer’s art.”
This beer is as widely known to lovers as the “amber head” all over the world as the pyramids of Egypt, or Niagara Falls, or America itself. The name iof this beer is “Falstaff”—and is made in the greatest brewery at St. Louis.
The management of the new Hotel LaSalle is equipping the magnificent bar of this imposing hostelry were quick to place Lemp’s “Falstaff” high on their schedule of beers selected for the delectations of their guests, with most of whom this beer has been a lifetime favorite.
Its mildness and unparalleled delicacy of flavor has made it the favorite beer in the home, particularly for table use.
Pure Havana Cigars
Among other features which will be notably a part of the new Hotel LaSalle may be mentioned—the cigar counter.
And one of the very especial features of the cigar counter will be the sale of La Espera cigars, made by the Fromherz-Berlitzheimer Company, 185-9 Lake street, Chicago.
This firm has been in existence since 1887. It was incorporated in 1904.
As makers of clear Havana cigars, exclusively for the jobbing trade, they have achieved an enviable reputation, based on the high-grade of their output.
The La Espera cigars and the El Moro de Venicia, made especially for the Hotel La Salle, are known as two of the highest grade Havana cigars now on the market, and the Hotel La Salle, in selecting these two brands for sale over their counters, may be considered as conferring a very particular flavor upon their guests, whose tastes turn only to the very superior article in the pure Havana goods.
Poultry, Game, Fruits
One of the laurels on which the reputation of the new Hotel LaSalle will rest will be the superiority of its cuisine.
So insistent has the management been on this particular point that months were expended in preparation and selection, to the end that there could be no possible future question arising as to the new— hotel being supplied, with the “best of everything.”
This process of elimination in the selection of supply houses to furnish their daily food supply narrowed down finally to the well-known firm of Cohen & Company, wholesale dealers in poultry. game, butter, eggs, fruit and vegetables, located at 150 and 15 South Water street.
The naming of this concern as the one whose standard was sufficiently high, to meet the extraordinarily exacting demands of what is undoubtedly destined to be one of America’s greatest hostelries cannot but be held a signal honor in itself and a very unusual guarantee of the high grade of this firm’s goods.
Telephone Franklin 1590-1-2-3.
Blue Ribbon Beer
The famous Pabst Blue Ribbon beer will be served in the buffets and -the restaurants of the new Hotel La Salle. This beer, which is exported all over the world, is well known as any from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and it has won its reputation upon the brewer’s guaranty of its purity. The Pabst Brewing Company of Milwaukee is one of the largest and best known in tho country. It keeps open house, so far as its brewery is concerned, to strangers who visit Milwaukee and wish to look through the mammoth plant.
This plain is noted for its completeness, cleanliness and the correct and modern methods which are used in creating its products. Blue Ribbon has won its spurs and the proof lies in the ever-increasing popular demand for this brew from hops and malt. Blue Ribbon beer, the makers assert, is absolutely pure and clean, and that it cannot be excelled for taste or quality. The Pabst Brewing Company insist upon the merits of its products and the company Insists that upon merit alone was it invited to present its product for consumption at the buffets of the new Hotel La Salle.
Famous Edelweiss Beer
It speaks for the high character of the buffet of the new Hotel La Salle, when consideration is given the superiority of the brands that will be offered over the bar and in the dining room and grill.
In the selection of tbe lending brands of beer in the United States obviously one of tho first to come under contract was the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Company of Chicago.
The unfailing high standard of “Edelweiss” beer, this company’s special brand, has made it unusually popular with those who appreciate the purity and excellence of this eminently superior product of the Schoenhofen brewery.
How good this beer is and how closely the new hotel is constantly looking to the best interests of its prospective guests may be gathered from the fat-that in the recent Food Exposition held here the Schoenhofen Brewing Company was awarded the first prize for its product.
The Schoenhofen brewery is easily the largest in the state of Illinois, and one of the largest in the country. This huge plant covers approximately fifteen acres of ground, affording employment to hundreds of men.
The shipping end of the business has become so large that the company has now laid down three-quarters of a mile of switch track within its premises, using its own engine to shunt the cars back aud forth. Here no less than thirty cars are loaded at one time and the product shipped to all parts of the United States, Canada, Central and South America and to Europe and other lands.
In this plant perfect cleanliness and sanitation is the keynote. The visitor to the brewery is more than amazed upon discovering the precautions taken to insure perfect sanitation and hygiene.
Every possible precaution is taken to prevent the beer from receiving any impure or foreign substance during the process of its manufacturing or aging. Not only is the beer itself kept absolutely free from contact with the air, in order to make it impossible for any contamination whatever to enter it, but the entire plant is constantly being scrubbed by a large force of men whose sole duty is to see that the place is kept scrupulously clean. In the cellars where the beer
is being aged the very air is constantly filtered.
And this aging of the beer is another point that the company is most careful in carrying out perfectly. Really good beer requires at least three mouths aging. The Schoenhofen Company never market their beer unless it has aged four months.
In the matter of sales the Schoenhofen product stands well at the head of the list. In 1897 their output amounted to 187,000 barrels, in 1908 they produced over 450,000 barrels, and the output is constantly growing daily
Chicago Tribune, June, 5, 1946
Inspector of Police Edwin Daly estimated that at least 16 persons were killed in the La Salle hotel fire. Ward Walker, a Chicago Tribune nportcr, entered the hotel while the fire was still raging and counted 14 bodies. Seven were lying in the well at the hotel, Walker reported. The dead were being taken to the lobby of the city hall. Extra police were called on duty to prevent looting in the hotel.
At least five persons perished. and more than a score of others were injured or overcome by smoke in a spectacular fire which broke out on the ground floor of the La Salle hotel early today,
Hundreds ot guests were trapped in upper story rooms and many later were carried down extension ladders from as hjgh as the sixth floor. Sill more managed to escape by climbing down steel fire escapes—many clad in scanty night attire.
As flames shot as high as the seventh floor level from the street, the loop echoed to the screams and cries of men and women standing at open windows.
Carry Out Injured Guests
A 5-11 alarm, followed by special calls, were sounded. Firemen rushed into the smoke filled lobby and braved fierce flames that made the mezzanine, in the words of one witness, “a hellish baJl of fire.” Soon firemen were carrying out unconscious guests, picked up in smoke filled corridors. They were taken to the Henrotin and St. Luke’s hospital.
The toll of dead and injured could not be immediately ascertained but the Henrotin hospital reported two men and one woman dead, and St. Luke’s, reported one man and one woman dead. Henrotin admitted l2 smoke victims and SL Luke’s five. The coroner’s office tentatIvely identified two dead as, Delbert Roush, 25, of Newton, Ia., and Bill Denniston, no address. The other victims were\ not identified. An assistant fire chief whose name was Freeman was reported killed in a faU down a fire shaft.
Use Inhalators on Victims
Police and firemen rushed all available inhalator machines to the hotel, and worked over smoke victims on the scene.
Many of the guesUi became panicky. At dozens of windows women screamed or men cried for help while some waved bedsheets out the window to attract the attention.
However. firemen called to them that the worst worst danger was over and urged them to stay In their rooms. Many continued their cries for help, and these, more panicky than the rest. quickly were brought down via tower ladders from the third. fourth, and fifth floors.
Many of those rescued and many others who cl1mbed down cold fire escapes were in scanty attire. Most of them put on coats over their night garments and fled to safety.
Chicago Tribune, June 7, 1946
Diagram of the La Salle hotel lobby floor, where the fire raged, showing proximity of lounge bar to elevators, center of blaze at its start.
Many Persons Overcome
“I saw many people overcome on the fourth floor,” said D. S. Taggart, 36, of 10 Prescott st., Boston, Mass., a salesman, “Two men were lying outside my door. Another man and I dragged them into my room. We dropped a note down to firemen, who came up and took them down.”
Marlon Burks of Springfield, Ill., assIstant director of the state department of insurance, and his wife were trapped in their room on the 13th Hoor .
“All Ughts were out, the smoke was so heavy we couldn’t see,” said Burks. “I opened my window and looked for the neurest fire escape. It was about JO feet trom my door. My wire and 1 put wet towels on our faces and felt our way down the hall. Luckily we hit the window at the flre escape. We just climbed down.”
Another man and his wile, both dressed in night clothing. walked 16 floors down the fire escape. They declined to give their names.
Among those carried down ladders were Miss Lorraine Colby, 26, and Miss Eileen Dirich, 18, both of De Kalb, Ill., Mr. and Mrs. J. Godfrey of New York City, and Paul Guisenberry of Cleveland. O., Guisenberry, was one of the fint to turn in an alarm, helped rescue five men.
Chicago Tribune, Aune 6, 1946
The La Salle hotel, erected in 1908 and 1909 as the “largest, safest, and modern hotel west of New York City,” occupies a location made famous by Chicago’s early day newspapers. Six were located on ground now occupied by the hotel.
The hotel building, designed by Holabird & Root, was of fireproof construction, built of steel, concrete, Bedford stone, granite, brick, terra cotta, marble, and tile. The structure cost 6½ million dollars and ground cost raised the total to an estimated 8 millions. The original owner was Ernest J. Stevens, who later constructed the Stevens hotel.
22 Stories, 1,048 Rooms.
The hotel contains 1,048 rooms and is 22 stories high. The guest rooms are on the 3d to 18th floors, the 19th and 20th floors containing the ballroom and Century room. On the 21st floor are the carpenter, paint, and other shops.
The hotel’s Blue Fountain room was the gathering place of Mrs. Potter Palmer and other society leaders in the era prior to the first World war. The hotel’s roof garden drew many celebrities in pre-prohibition days.
Avery Brundage at Head.
The hotel ran into financial difficulties in the depression years. A receiver was named in 1932 and in 1935 the LaSalle-Madison company paid $337,000 cash and approximately 1 million dollars in back taxes for the hotel.
The hotel was leased Jan. 1, 1940, by the Roanoke Hotel corporation, of which Avery Brundage was president. Brundage and his associates exercised their option to purchase the hotel in 1942.
Chicago Tribune, June 9, 1946
City officials took steps yesterday to close the Lorraine Hotel, 411 S. Wabash av., as a fire hazard at noon tomorrow as fire officials advanced their first specific theory on the cause of the fire which took 60 lives early Wednesday in the La Salle hotel.
Origin of the fire was placed by investigators in the false ceiling above the Silver lounge off the north side of the hotel lobby and the cause was given tentatively as crossed wires.
Expert on Fire Causes
Fire Capt. Frank A. Corrigan’s staff and fire prevention work, gave this explanation after questioning witnesses and studying the fire scene with other investigators. Thielman, considered one of the department’s experts on fire causes, said he will submit a formal report to Commissioner Corrigan later this week.
In his opinion, Thielman said, the fire originated in the air space from 12 to 18 inches in depth, in the ceiling if the Silver lounge. This space was left there some timne ago when the lounge was remodeled and finished in walnut paneling. It extended along the ceiling and also between the walls where similar panels were installed.
After starting in this ceiling, possibly from crossed wires, Capt. Thielman said, the fire apparently burned for some time until it extended down into the walls, Sparks which were seen in an elevator shaft adjoining the wall of the lounge may have been communicated to it thru openings in this well.
Flames Heated Walls.
Eventually, it was said, the flames heated the walls of a corner booth in the cocktail lounge and sparks and smoke shot out when a cushion was lifted. When employes in the lounge squirted seltzer water onto the burning seat, they were far from the real base of the fire, the investigator said.
After accumulating for some time, the fire spread with almost explosive speed when it got into the open and fed on the wood veneer and varnish on the paneling, Thielman reported.
The hotel fire toll was raised to 60 with the death early yesterday of Mrs. Ann Palukis, 24, of 824 Prescott av., Waukegan, who died in Henrotin hospital.
Seventeen persons injured in the fire are still confined in hospitals. Of this number two were described as critical and a third as serious.
Chicago Tribune, July 2, 1946
Building Department “Liberal”
The jury found that the flames started somewhere in the walls of the the main floor cocktail lounge. It pointed out these walls were built in 1935 “in conformity with a written agreement made with the building department,” and continued:
“The jury feels that the building department was very liberal in their interpretation of the then existing building code. We recommend that the city council take whatever action is necessary to prevent such liberal interpretation and discretion.”
Chicago Tribune, June 8, 1946
Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1946.
A gold Vail medal and $1,000 has been awarded posthumously to Mrs. Julia C. Berry, telephone operator who remained at her switchboard and died in the La Salle hotel fire June 5, the American Telephone and Telegraph company said yesterday. Presentation will be made to Mrs. Berry’s son, John Joseph Berry, 15 of 6843 Elizabeth st., when the medal and scroll are completed. Young Berry was orphaned by his mother’s death. The award is the 15th since the establishment in 1920 of the fund in memory of Theodore N. Vail, former president of the American Telephone and Telegraph company.
Replaced by the 2 North LaSalle office building, which reused the hotel’s foundations.
1 René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, or Robert de La Salle (November 22, 1643 – March 19, 1687) was a French explorer. He explored the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. He claimed the entire Mississippi River basin for France.