Nobody Asked Me, But… No. 237: Hotel History: Hotel Allegro, Chicago, Illinois
Stanley Turkel | September 22, 2020
By Stanley Turkel, CMHS
Hotel History: Hotel Allegro, Chicago, IL, (483 rooms)
The Hotel Allegro was created on the site of old Bismarck Hotel in 1998. The original Bismarck Hotel was built in 1894 by Emil and Karl Eitel, brothers from Stuttgart, Germany. The Eitels were pioneers who installed ice-boxes in the hotel’s kitchen and air conditioning in the hotel’s restaurants. During World War I, the Bismarck was renamed the Randolph Hotel because of anti-German sentiment. After the war, the Bismarck name was restored. When the Eitel brothers built a new 19-floor Bismarck Hotel, the 22-story Metropolitan Office Building and the 2500-seat Palace Theatre, the original Bismarck was demolished.
The new Bismarck opened in 1926 with 600 rooms with spectacular features such as:
- a wide marble staircase with a hand-wrought balustrade in the spacious lobby
- vaudeville acts and big-name bands performing in the adjacent Palace Theatre
- authentic German cuisine served at the Bismarck’s Swiss Chalet restaurant
In 1956, the hotel was acquired by the Wirtz family, owners of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Stadium. They installed air-conditioning throughout the building and telephones in every room. With its fortuitous location across the street from City Hall, the Bismarck was the official headquarters for the Cook County Democratic organization.
In 1996, Pal/Met purchased the Bismarck and, with Kimpton Hotels as operator, embarked on creating a thoroughgoing new identity with a theatrical ambiance. It reopened in 1998 with a new name, the Hotel Allegro, and a new identity. In 2008, interior designer Martha Angus was brought on board to craft a design concept that would tell the Hotel Allegro’s modern “Be a Star” story, while maintaining a reverence for the building’s past.
Guests enter the hotel on a red carpeted sweeping staircase, which leads to the renovated lobby area known as the “living room”. A striking mural, above the reception desk of the S.S. Normandie, built in 1932 as the fastest and largest ocean liner in the world enhances the classic feel of the space. Nearby, guests can venture from past to present as they enter the adjacent Cameo Lounge, which shows a contemporary look with laser-cut ink splatter mirrors, bright red faux crocodile wall coverings, and white leather couches.
The Hotel Allegro’s 483 luxurious guestrooms have a sleek design incorporating reflective surfaces, and lustrous furniture made of macassar ebony. Past and present is fused with Art Deco design features such as 1940s-inspired French desks, headboards inspired by 1960s luxury cruise ship cabins and 21st century geometric patterns and accents, including plexi-bedside table lamps. The historic Walnut Ballroom has fifteen-foot ceilings, large windows, and nickel-plated chandeliers of 1910 vintage.
The Hotel Allegro is a focal point for sightings of pop stars and rock bands such as Poison, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Tommy Lee, Midnight Oil, Flock of Seagulls, Warrant, The Killers, The Roots, Perry Ferrell, DJ Miles, Maeda and Rhianna. The hotel’s restaurant, 312 Chicago, hosts politicians from neighboring City Hall while the lounge, Encore, provides production parties for actors and producers from the nearby theater district.
Frommer’s Review, New York Times, August 18, 2012:
The Allegro’s laid-back vibe make it a better bet for families and couples than other, more business-focused Loop hotels. The only downside is that you won’t have room to spread out: The compact guest rooms don’t have much space beyond the bed, an armoire, and an armchair. Still, the bright white-and-blue color scheme is cheery, and the compact bathrooms have built-in marble shelves for ample storage….
Committed to environmentally responsible hospitality, Hotel Allegro has become one of the first five hotels in Illinois to earn Green Seal™ Silver certification for its sustainable practices.
My New Book “Hotel Mavens Volume 3: Bob and Larry Tisch, Curt Strand, Ralph Hitz, Cesar Ritz, Raymond Orteig” has been published.
My Other Published Hotel Books
- Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2009)
- Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York (2011)
- Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (2013)
- Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt, Oscar of the Waldorf (2014)
- Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry (2016)
- Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels West of the Mississippi (2017)
- Hotel Mavens Volume 2: Henry Morrison Flagler, Henry Bradley Plant, Carl Graham Fisher (2018)
- Great American Hotel Architects Volume I (2019)
All of these books can be ordered from AuthorHouse by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com and clicking on the book’s title.
If You Need an Expert Witness:
For the past twenty-seven years, I have served as an expert witness in more than 42 hotel-related cases. My extensive hotel operating experience is beneficial in cases involving:
- slip and fall accidents
- wrongful deaths
- fire and carbon monoxide injuries
- hotel security issues
- dram shop requirements
- hurricane damage and/or business interruption cases
Feel free to call me at no charge on 917-628-8549 to discuss any hotel-related expert witness assignment.
ABOUT STANLEY TURKEL
Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 and the 2015 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of hotel history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion and a greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.
Turkel is the most widely-published hotel consultant in the United States. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, provides asset management and hotel franchising consultation. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
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