room with couches and arm chairs
Hotel

A Historical Gem Among Chicago Hotels

The preeminent luxury hotel in Chicago wasn’t always a hotel. Built in 1929 as the exclusive Medinah Athletic Club, the opulent building at 505 North Michigan Avenue was constructed with larger-than-life architectural details: a bronze doorway, marble columns, a grand staircase, cast-bronze friezes, and painted ceilings.

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Timeline

1925

The Chicago Shriners Club purchases the land at the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Illinois Street directly north of the Tribune Tower for $1 million.

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1928

The ceremony to lay the cornerstone of the Medinah Athletic Club was held on November 5 and, to commemorate the occasion, a copper time capsule was placed within the cornerstone. It currently remains sealed within the hotel's limestone exterior and contains records of the organization, photographs of members, and a copy of the Chicago Tribune announcing the proposal of the building, as well as coins and other historic data.

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1929

Construction of the building's 42 floors and 440 guest rooms is completed in August, and its facilities are made available for the exclusive use of the club’s members and guests. In October, The Great Depression starts and a worldwide economic depression sweeps over the United States.

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1934

The Medinah Club files for bankruptcy following a lengthy financial battle.

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1944

The building is sold to developer John J. Mack, who converts it to a 650-room hotel at a cost of $1 million, renaming it the Hotel Continental.

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1947

Mack sells the hotel to Sheraton Hotels. It is renamed the Sheraton hotel and later the Sheraton-Chicago Hotel.

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1961

Sheraton expands the hotel, adding a 26-story second tower just north of the existing building. During this era, the hotel features an outlet of the popular Polynesian-themed Kon-Tiki Ports restaurant chain. A facade of lava rock adorns the northern wall, where today only a small section remains visible.

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1978

MAT Associates purchases the hotel from Sheraton and brings in Radisson Hotels to manage the hotel, which is renamed the Radisson Chicago Hotel.

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1983

MAT Associates terminates Radisson's contract and returns the property to its original name, Hotel Continental.

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1986

MAT closes the hotel in November for a renovation.

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1987

In August, plans are announced for the property to be managed by InterContinental Hotels and split into two hotels, totaling only 792 rooms. North Tower reopens first as the 547-room Forum Hotel (the budget-priced division of Inter-Continental), while the historic 1929 South Tower is restored as the 346-room Inter-Continental Chicago.

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1989

The Forum Hotel opens.

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1990

In March, the historic InterContinental Chicago opens its doors to the public. Although operating as separate properties, the two share back-of-the-house facilities.

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1994

In April, the Forum Hotel merges into the Inter-Continental Chicago in a $10 million renovation, bringing it to a total of 792 rooms.

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1995

Strategic Hotels & Resorts acquires ownership of InterContinental Chicago Hotel and proposes a new 850-foot, 55-story north tower. Designed by Lucien Lagrange Architects, the new tower would have been twice the height of the current 42-story south tower, and would have replaced the 28-story north tower built in 1961 by Sheraton. The new north tower would house new condominiums, as well as an addition to the hotel. It is never built due to the 2008 economic crisis.

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2001

A new entrance and a four-story lobby are built, combining elements of both architectural styles. Its grand staircase, which ascends to the banquet space above, is lined with banisters bearing intricate cast bronze ornamentation. An illuminated rotunda is capable of changing colors and creating the illusion of twinkling stars against a night sky.

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2011

InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile becomes a member of Historic Hotels of America.

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2013

The Grand Tower, formerly the Forum Hotel, reveals a $12 million renovation. The design captures the vibrancy of Michigan Avenue and its celebration of high-end fashion.

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2015

The InterContinental Hotel on Michigan Avenue unveils a $13 million renovation of its Historic Tower, to be renamed the Executive Tower. The design is a celebration of Chicago and a reflection of the city’s famed architecture.

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2019

A multi-million dollar meeting space restoration enhances the design of the hotel’s interiors while maintaining the beautiful qualities of its legendary original architecture.

InterContinental Chicago celebrates its 90th birthday.

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