Illinois bill aims to provide $21M for restoration of Pullman's historic Hotel Florence
CHICAGO - Could the historic Pullman neighborhood's old flagship hotel once again welcome guests?
There is new hope for a revival of the Hotel Florence, with House Bill 779 continuing to make its way through the Illinois General Assembly.
HB0779 would provide $21 million in state funding to restore the once-opulent structure back to its former glory. Hotel Florence — named after George Pullman's daughter — was built in 1881 as a 50-room hotel at the corner of 111th and Forrestville, complete with reading room, billiards room, bar, and restaurant. It sits within the footprint of the Pullman National Historic Park.
SUBSCRIBE TO FOX 32 CHICAGO ON YOUTUBE
"When I was five years old, I can still see myself playing out here and being chased away from the Hotel Florence," said 85-year-old lifelong Pullman resident and former Pullman Standard employee Ray Quiroz. He can still remember when the Hotel Florence was a posh, bustling hotel.
"They had the bar right here," he said, pointing to the corner of the front facade. "The bar was right here. I remember the tenants would come out here on the veranda and have their breakfast."
Quiroz used to spend time as a boy playing in the front yard when his mother was Hotel Florence's head housekeeper. That was in the 1940s. But decades later, the hotel's heyday is a distant memory. The building was barely saved from the wrecking ball in the 1970s, and despite efforts by the State of Illinois — which has owned it since the 1990s — to preserve parts of the structure, it has sat mostly empty for decades.
"They've done things to protect and preserve the building, but no real plan for its active reuse," said Patricia Shymanski, President of the Bielenberg Historic Pullman House Foundation. "It's deserving of being saved and it's deserving of people appreciating it and using it on a daily basis."
HB0779 has passed the state House and is now making its way through the Senate.
"A place for people to come and see," said Quiroz. "Because this is history."
"Vote yes!" Shymanski urged lawmakers.