The Congress Plaza Hotel, located at 520 South Michigan Ave. in downtown Chicago, opened in 1893, just in time for the World’s Columbian Exposition. For a while, it was owned by mobster Al Capone, who used it for his headquarters.
The North Tower, pictured below, was designed by Clinton Warren, with Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler serving as consultants. The South Tower was a later addition, designed by the firm Holabird and Roche.
The interior has a faded grandeur that I found quite charming, if a bit tattered. Some might describe the place as not “updated,” while others may say that it has “character.” The walls feature old wallpaper or layers and layers of paint. The rugs are stained and worn. The bathroom in our room was tiny, its marble tiles cracked in places. On the other hand, I loved the high, coved ceiling and large bay window in the room.
The lobby is quite ornate:
I really enjoyed all these decorative details:
The “CH” monogram seems to be everywhere:
While staying here, we encountered picketers out front and later learned about the longest hotel strike in the US. You can check out photos of the unsafe and unsanitary conditions that have been found in the hotel. I have to admit that, though we spent very little time in the hotel itself, we didn’t experience any of these problems.
Another interesting tidbit is that the hotel is apparently haunted and was therefore used as the site of the first annual Chicago Ghost Conference in 2007.