The Palmer House Hilton in Chicago is a haven for history enthusiasts and luxury seekers alike. This stunning 19th-century hotel immerses guests in a bygone era, evoking the grandeur of wealthy Chicago socialites. With over 1600 opulent guest rooms, this iconic establishment has hosted a plethora of notable figures, including US presidents, renowned authors, entertainers, and even royalty. My husband and I recently stayed in a one-bedroom king suite, which exuded sumptuousness. We were so enchanted by our stay and the hotel’s history that I felt compelled to write about it. There are plenty of reasons to go to Chicago, but going to see and stay at the Palmer House is an excellent purpose to make the trip.
When my husband became mobility-challenged several years ago, we were worried that our historical travels would come to an end. Most of the hotels we loved to stay in and places we enjoyed exploring were not typically manageable for disabled people. However, we were thrilled to discover that the Palmer House Hilton is a fully accessible hotel, allowing him to explore every corner.
Some Hotel History
The Palmer House holds a significant historical tale that revolves around the love story of Potter Palmer and Bertha Honoré. Potter Palmer owned a successful dry goods store; he partnered with Marshall Fields and was eventually bought out by him. Bertha Honoré hailed from a distinguished French family; her great-grandfather, Jean Antoine Honoré, reportedly enthused by America’s fight for independence, had moved to the States a century earlier.
In a time when numerous suitors vied for Bertha’s affection, it was Potter who stood out by offering her something unique – the opportunity to have her very own hotel. His gesture, along with his other attributes—he was likely the most eligible bachelor in Chicago—won her hand in marriage. The couple married in July of 1870; Bertha wore a white satin gown by Charles Frederick Worth and the Palmer House was Potter’s present to her.1
Tragedy struck when the Palmer House building fell victim to the devastating Chicago Fire of 1871. However, Potter Palmer’s resilience, determination, and good standing allowed him to secure a loan (on the precipice of a national financial crisis no less) and rebuild from the ground up. On November 8, 1873, the new and improved Palmer House proudly opened its doors to welcome its first guests.
In its illustrious past, the hotel also hosted the…