520 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60605 312-427-3800
In Devil in the White City:
“Workers began building the Auditorium on June 1, 1887. The result was an opulent structure that for the moment was the biggest private building in America. The surrounding building had commercial offices, an immense banquet hall, and a hotel with four hundred luxurious rooms. A traveler from Germany recalled that simply by running an electric dial on the wall by his bed he could request towels, stationery, ice water, newspapers, whiskey, or a shoe shine. It became the most celebrated building in Chicago.” Page 318
In The Devil in the White City, Eric Larson recounts the building of what was then the Auditorium – complete with a hotel, the Auditorium Annex, which today is the Congress Plaza Hotel. I checked out the hotel because I wanted to see where the fanciest of fair goers stayed. I found the people at the front desk – or any workers for that matter – love to talk about the history of the hotel. I didn’t stay there – but I just had to know if there were still dials on the walls to ring for towels or ice water. That would be “no,” but I’m told if you simply call the front desk you can get the same response. Over the years the hotel has grown and it’s run through a number of owners. One of those was the federal government – it bought the property to house soldiers during World War II. Now, however, it’s privately owned, it’s doubled in size – it feels a little like a Las Vegas hotel with lots of places to wander about.