The Chicago Hilton was once barracks for WWII cadets

Chicago Hilton
Chicago Hilton Lobby

When the Beaux-Arts style hotel, known as The Stevens Hotel, opened in May of 1927 it was the largest hotel in the world. It boasted 3,000 guest rooms and cost $30 million to build (nearly half a billion dollars in today’s money).

The hotel billed itself as a “City within a city”. Inside the Stevens Hotel was a bowling alley, barber shop, ice cream shop, a rooftop miniature golf course, a movie theater, and drug store. The first registered guest at the hotel was Vice President Charles G. Dawes.

During the Great Depression the Stevens Hotel went bankrupt like most hotels at the time and the government took receivership of it. The US army purchased the hotel for $6 million in 1942 and used it as barracks and classrooms for the Army Air Force during World War II. Between 1942 and 1944 over 10,000 cadets were passed through the hotel using the Grand Ballroom as their mess hall. The army sold the hotel for $4.91 million in January 1944.

Conrad Hilton purchased the hotel in 1945 and it was renamed after him in 1954.Β  Mr. Hilton kept the tradition of the hotel hosting the biggest movie stars, politicians, presidents, royalty, and dignitaries alive, which continues to this day.

The aging hotel was considered for demolition in the 1970s but in 1984 the hotel closed for a year for a renovation that turned the hotels 3,000 guest rooms into 1,544 larger and more luxurious guest rooms. On October 1st 1985 the hotel reopened as the Chicago Hilton and Towers. The renovated hotel helped revitalize Chicagos South Loop neighborhood at the time. In 1998 it became know as the Chicago Hilton.

The hotel is near the only river in the world that permanently flows backwards. If you would like more information about staying at this historic landmark visit here

* this isn’t a paid endorsement for Chicago Hilton. We just think the history is cool. 😎

 

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Joshua Shoopman

Joshua is a lover of travel and food based in New York City

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