Palmer House Chicago reopens after more than a year

Evelyn Holmes Image
Thursday, June 17, 2021
Palmer House Hotel reopens after more than a year
Chicago's famed Palmer House Hotel reopened after more than a year, having temporarily shuttered for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Long time doorman Patrick Henry happily welcomed back guests Thursday.

"It's a good feeling. It's good to see the people," he said.

The iconic hotel's Thursday morning reopening coincided with a milestone anniversary for the historic hotel.

"We are so fortunate to open up our doors to the world and the city of Chicago and celebrate our 150th anniversary," said Dean Lane, general manager.

To celebrate the hotel's future, they took a look into the past. Thursday the highly secretive Palmer House vault was opened to the public. Located in the bowels of the city's second largest hotel, it guards keepsakes of the Palmer House, which first opened in 1871 as businessman Potter Palmer's extravagant wedding gift to his new bride Bertha.

It was destroyed just 13 days later in the Great Chicago Fire, but was rebuilt two years after that.

"There are over 1,500 place settings from the original greatest banquets, including a single place setting valued at over $30,000," said Gene Hare, Hilton hotels.

The vault contains Bertha Palmer's original china, more than a dozen Polaroids taken at the Chicago World's Fair, when the camera was invented, the original show guide book from the hotel's famed Empire Room, and a beer stein writer Mark Twain brought to a banquet he emceed for the couple in 1879.

Known for many firsts, the Palmer House is the birthplace of the fire fireproof hotel, the first elevator, and the first hotel to use the lightbulb and the telephone. The hotel's signature 1871 cocktail pays homage to that past. There's also brownie bites, which were invented at the hotel for the World's Fair.

Guests can also enjoy some jazz, a little magic, and upgrades to the hotel in the form of a new multimillion dollar facelift of the swimming pool.