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Edgewater Beach Hotel Mementos Sought For Centennial Exhibit

By Linze Rice | March 17, 2016 6:15am
 The Edgewater Beach Hotel (not the "pink building") began construction in 1916 and for a period was "Chicago's Most Famous Hotel." It was torn down in 1970, but the Edgewater Historical Society is seeking memories and mementos for an upcoming exhibit on the hotel.
Edgewater Beach Hotel
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EDGEWATER — Volunteer historians with the Edgewater Historical Society are seeking artifacts, stories and memories about the former Edgewater Beach Hotel for an upcoming centennial exhibit.

Kathy Gemperle, who founded the group in 1988, said the exhibit was looking to include anything people might own from the hotel's 54-year history. Stories and anecdotes are welcome as well, as long as they contain at least a few sentences of information, she said.

The exhibit will open June 4 — 100 years and one day after the hotel began construction — but in the meantime Gemperle and her team are on the hunt for whatever relics people would loan, share or hand over.

The historical society museum, 5358 N. Ashland Ave., already houses a small collection behind a glass case, but is looking to create a fuller "exhibit about the world famous hotel that once stood on the Edgewater shoreline."

The group is looking to add items from the hotel's skating rink, beauty salon, barber shop and floral shop, as well as stories related to working at the hotel, or staying as a guest or visitor. A brief period of the hotel's history also suggests it was used as a dorm for Loyola University.

Photos from guest rooms are also highly sought, though the society already has many other photos from the hotel.

Inside, Gemperle said the majority of the current collection came from donations — each of which give a glimpse into the different eras the hotel lived through.

For example, some early items show ornate detail — where later, items are emblazoned with a "Property of Edgewater Beach Hotel" on them. Gemperle suspects that's around the time the hotel noticed clients were pocketing small trinkets to keep as souvenirs from the famous hotel.

The historical society does house a few rare collectibles, like a wrapped bar of soap (Gemperle said not many have been found because many people actually used the soap), and a package of playing cards.

A beautiful metallic box with a picture of the hotel was likely bought in the store's first-floor gift shop, she said, and the hotel's signature green and white emblem is found on ashtrays, postcards, and more.

Some items, like playing cards and soap, have been hard to find. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Ground broke for the hotel on June 3, 1916, at 5301 N. Sheridan Road.

Designed by architects Benjamin H. Marshall and Charles E. Fox of Marshall and Fox, the hotel was completed in 1924 and became known as a luxurious hideaway from the bustling Downtown scene — perfect for the many presidents, actors, politicians, and athletes who came to stay as guests.

Some famous clients included Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In 1928, the hotel's co-op sister building, the Edgewater Beach Apartments, was built directly to the north at 5555 N. Sheridan Road, and is now the only surviving building from the hotel's era. It became a national landmark in 1994, and is often mislabeled as the hotel.

The "sunset" pink apartment building served as a complement to the hotel's "sunrise" yellow color, according to an Encyclopedia of Chicago.

Artifacts from the hotel, including a piece of the building itself. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

The hotel had grand ballrooms, dining halls, ground floor shops and amenities, sprawling green spaces, a skating rink and tennis courts, and guests had what is essentially now Foster Beach completely to themselves.

The building thrived until Lake Shore Drive was expanded from Foster to Hollywood avenues during 1951-54, cutting off the once-private beach from the hotel.

In 1953, the hotel added a swimming pool in order to cope with the loss of the lake, but its appeal and success were never the same.

By the 1960s, the hotel had changed hands several times and in 1967 it had gone into foreclosure and abruptly ceased operations. It was torn down in 1970.

A small retail strip with high-rise buildings, including The Breakers senior living facility, now stands in its place.

Kathy Gemperle said people are also welcome to submit stories and anecdotes from the hotel days, as long as they're about a paragraph, she said. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Kathy Gemperle points out the "ugly" period of the hotel in the 1950s and '60s, when the owners changed hands (and decorations). [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

Check out this old home movie shot at the Edgewater Beach Hotel .... 

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