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Edgewater Beach Hotel's Glorious Legacy Lives On In New Centennial Exhibit

By Linze Rice | May 31, 2016 6:23am
 The Edgewater Historical Society will open its updated exhibit on the Edgewater Beach Hotel and celebrate its history in the neighborhood over the last century.
The Edgewater Historical Society will open its updated exhibit on the Edgewater Beach Hotel and celebrate its history in the neighborhood over the last century.
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DNAinfo/Linze Rice

EDGEWATER — One hundred years after it was first constructed, the iconic former Edgewater Beach Hotel will be celebrated in a new centennial exhibit at the Edgewater Historical Society.

The historical society, 5358 N. Ashland Ave., already held a small display on the hotel at its museum, but had sent a call out to residents asking for personal mementos from the hotel, including relics, memories and stories.

The exhibit will run from 1-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through June 2017.

The historical society said "many people" had responded to its call for donations, and the display will include many photos, floor plans, construction plans, pictures that show staff and the hotel's founders, postcards and photos showing the hotel's eventual demolition in 1970.

The historical society won't be the the only group celebrating the hotel on its birthday.

Morry Matson, of the Edgewater Beachwalk Chicago group, had earlier reached out to organizations and notable figures, including Martin Luther King Jr. III, to sing "Happy Birthday" where the hotel once stood before walking down Sheridan and eventually over to the lakefront.

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

The hotel became a city landmark and still serves as the source of both neighborhood history and local folklore.

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.

Vintage home videos show newlyweds honeymooning in Chicago and staying at the hotel, playing along its then-exclusive beach.

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.

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 Avenue 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. In 1967 it had gone into foreclosure and abruptly ceased operations. It was torn down in 1970.

The Edgewater Beach Hotel in its heyday. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]

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