Palmer House celebrates 150 years in downtown Chicago

An iconic Chicago hotel celebrated an impressive anniversary Wednesday and threw a big party to celebrate.

The Palmer House celebrated 150 years of its rich history with former employees, guests and performers Wednesday.

Pictures from the hotel's history were projected on the walls inside the Grand Ballroom as attendees enjoyed cake and champagne.

The Palmer House started as a love story with founder Potter Palmer giving it to his wife, Bertha Honore. It opened in September 1871, just 13 days before the Great Chicago Fire hit, forcing them to rebuild the hotel.

"It was Potter Palmer's wedding gift to his lovely bride, Bertha. Can you imagine that as a wedding gift?" said Dean Lane, Area General Manager of Palmer House Hotel.

The Loop hotel has achieved a lot of historic feats in its 150-year life span, including putting the first Alexander Graham Bell telephones in each room and the first Edison light bulbs in rooms, and the first contraption that led to the creation of an elevator.

"The Palmers created an economic legacy that after 150 years continues to create jobs, attract out of town visitors and provide a unique place to celebrate life’s milestones and special occasions and give Chicago an important reason to be proud," said Larry Horowitz of Historic Hotels of America.


Presidents from Grover Cleveland to Barack Obama have stayed there.

Faye Willett was a dancer here in the 1950's and even lived in the hotel. She cried when she walked in again for the anniversary.

"I am so glad it’s alive. It was a supper club, very elegant, everybody came here," said Willett.

The Palmer House Hotel also survived the COVID-19 pandemic, reopening this summer after being closed for 14 months.

"We suspended our hotel for 14 straight months, throughout the pandemic, and we reopened June 14, and it's been a slow ramp up, but it's getting stronger every day", said Lane.

The Palmer House Hotel is also credited with the creation of chocolate brownies, of which many were available at Wednesday's celebration.

"We celebrate the remarkable legacy of Potter and Bertha Honore Palmer and the many subsequent owners, all wonderful stewards of historic preservation, of the Palmer House Hotel. Certainly one of the grandest hotels ever built," said Horowitz.