Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Edgewater Beach Hotel and Apartments, Chicago, Illinois.

The Edgewater Beach Hotel was located in the far-north community of Edgewater in Chicago, Illinois. Built in 1916 and owned by John Tobin Connery and James Patrick Connery, it was located between Sheridan Road and Lake Michigan at Berwyn Avenue.
"The Edgewater Beach Hotel is located on the North Shore, about seven miles from the center of the city. It is built in the form of a Greek Cross without an inside court and without an inside room. A notable feature is the Marine Cafe and Beach Walk overlooking Lake Michigan." Edgewater Beach Hotel Postcard 1924.
The complex had a private beach and offered seaplane service to downtown Chicago. During its lifetime, the hotel served many famous guests including Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Charlie Chaplin, Bette Davis, Tallulah Bankhead, and Nat King Cole, and U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Edgewater Beach Hotel Areoplane View Postcard.
The hotel was known for hosting big bands such as the bands of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Xavier Cugat, and Wayne King, which were also broadcast on the hotel's own radio station, a precursor to WGN with the call letters WEBH.

On June 14, 1949, Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus was shot and nearly killed by an obsessive fan at the hotel; this later would be a large part of the inspiration behind Bernard Malamud's novel The Natural.
You can see the Edgewater Beach Hotel and Apartments in the background from Lake Shore Drive which ended at Foster Avenue in this 1938 photograph.
The 1951–54 extension of Lake Shore Drive from Foster Avenue to Hollywood Avenue cut the hotel off from the beach leading to a reduction in business. The hotel closed in 1967 and the main buildings were demolished shortly after.
Edgewater Beach Hotels Last Day, Thursday, December 21, 1967.


Edgewater Beach Hotel being demolished mid-1970.
The Edgewater Beach Co-op or Apartments, built in 1928, is the only part of the hotel complex to survive and is part of the Bryn Mawr Historic District.

Visit the Souvenir Shop


Edgewater Beach Apartments, Chicago
The Edgewater Beach Apartments at 5555 N. Sheridan Road to the north were completed as part of the hotel resort complex in 1928. The "sunset pink" apartments complemented the "sunrise yellow" hotel in a similar architectural style. Bears coach George Halas lived in the apartment building for many years.

The hotel closed in 1967 and was raised the same year, but the Edgewater Beach Apartments, the last of the original structures left on the property, remains as a landmarked testament to the spacious elegance and solid construction that characterize the best buildings of the Roaring Twenties.
Edgewater Beach Apartments.

Edgewater Beach Apartments Swimming Pool.


The Edgewater Beach Hotel: Magic by the Lake
by Ginny Weissman

It was a Chicago landmark -- a lavish pink resort that stood on the lakefront at Sheridan near Foster for almost half a century. The Edgewater Beach Hotel has been closed since 1967, yet the memories linger on.

The Edgewater Beach Hotel was the brainchild of two Chicago businessmen, who initially tried to buy the Chicago Cubs. When the deal fell through, they decided instead to build a hotel. One of the partners, John T. Connery, bought the vacant property across the street from his home on Sheridan Road and called on the architectural firm Marshall & Fox whose lead architect, Ben Marshall, had a reputation for flamboyant taste and adventurous style. Marshall's concept for the Edgewater Beach was no exception: the construction would be in Spanish-style stucco, in the form of a Maltese Cross, so most rooms would face the Lake. The original 400-room structure opened in 1916.
Edgewater Beach Hotel New Double Decker Motor Bus, 1919.
"When the hotel first opened," Connery's granddaughter Mary Nelson remembers, "my grandfather was going from empty room to empty room in the evening turning on the lights on the Sheridan Road side to make the hotel look occupied. That was not necessary for very long, as the hotel soon became very popular." So popular, in fact, that a second 600-room unit was opened just to the south in 1922.
The Edgewater Beach Hotel, Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan at 5349 Sheridan Road. 1,000 rooms with a garage in direct connection accommodating 200 cars of house guests; lawns, children's playgrounds, gardens, tennis courts and golf mashie-putting course, private bathing beach, open air marble dancing floor and over 1,000 feet of Beach Promenade.
During the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, the Edgewater Beach was Chicago's place to see and be seen. Countless weddings, proms, dances and other events drew neighborhood residents. On any given night, you could rub elbows with celebrities such as Bette Davis, Tallulah Bankhead, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Marilyn Monroe, and major sports figures including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, to name a few. All the big bands played there: Tommy Dorsey, Xavier Cugat, Wayne King and many others. Hotel manager (and later president) William Dewey "was a showman," says historian Kenan Heise. "He was good at booking top names into the Edgewater Beach, and that was very much a part of its allure."
Edgewater Beach Hotel Beach Walk.
Guests still recall the Beach Walk, the Marine Dining Room and its strict formal dress code, the radio shows and television broadcasts. Singer Gloria Van, who performed with Wayne King's band, remembers: "I knew I had reached my goal when I worked the Edgewater. I felt like a big deal when I worked it. It was just gorgeous."
Edgewater Beach Hotel Marine Dining Room
The hotel was almost a city within itself - it had its own radio station, print shop, chocolate factory and even a heliport. Newsreels show that it had a state-of-the-art film studio as well. There was even a distinctive green motor coach that shuttled guests each day to and from Marshall Field's downtown. 
Edgewater Beach Hotel  Private Motor Coach. Circa 1930.
And the hotel had a seaplane available for the illustrious and well-heeled who didn't want to take the bus!
A Hydro-Aeroplane rests on the promenade at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, Chicago. Circa 1920
But by the 1950s, the Edgewater Beach, like many traditional establishments, found itself at odds with the times. The city's decision to extend Lake Shore Drive past the hotel north to Hollywood cut the Edgewater Beach off from its prized lakefront.
Aerial view showing the famous Edgewater Beach Hotel and Pool, located on Chicago's New Landfilled Lake Front. Known by world travelers for its dining and luxury accommodations.
Management, maintenance and financial problems mounted, and the original owners sold their interest in the late 1940s. Symbolically, the elegant Marine Dining Room was replaced by the Polynesian Room. (Employees who were trained in serving fine cuisine disdainfully referred to the new restaurant as "that chop suey joint.") With the advent of television and air conditioning, the hotel drew fewer and fewer guests, and in December 1967, the owners abruptly shut it down. Demolition took over a year. "It was a big part of the neighborhood," recalls resident Phyllis Nickels, "so we were awfully mad when they were going to take it down."

A trace of elegance still remains at the Edgewater Beach Apartments, built in 1927, the last of the original structures left on the property. And as you walk by, you can almost hear the big bands playing; just as they did in the glory days of the Edgewater Beach. 
Edgewater Beach Hotel Yacht Club

Edgewater Beach Hotel Yacht Club

Edgewater Beach Hotel Ballroom.

Edgewater Beach Hotel Black Cat Room.

Edgewater Beach Hotel  Passaggio.

 Edgewater Beach Hotel East Lounge.

Edgewater Beach Hotel West Lounge.

Edgewater Beach Hotel Flower Shop.

Edgewater Beach Hotel Typical Bedroom. 

Panoramic Dining Room Edgewater Hotel Chicago.
Edgewater Beach Hotel Colonnade Room.

Edgewater Beach Hotel Marine Dining Room.

Edgewater Beach Hotel. The 2 buildings seen here were demolished by mid-1970.
Visit the Souvenir Shop

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

3 comments:

  1. Fascinating history. I wish it had not been cut off by Lake Shore Drive and that they had renovated, rather than demolished the buildings.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My grandmother lived in the edgewater Beach apartments. I loved going there as a young girl to stay with her and swimming in the pool pictured. It was alwsys an adventure. There were gardens on the roof if I remember correctly.

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  3. I was lucky in that I got to stay there just before they tore it down. My mother-in-law worked there & got us a room for our honeymoon 2 nights. We ate across the street at the house that is a restaurant (Chinese now) forget the name then. It had photos of all the stars that ate there when the hotel was in it's heyday. Only confusion I have is I was married in Dec 1967.

    ReplyDelete

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