Everything about the LondonHouse Hotel speaks of Chicago, from its historic architecture to its interior design — even its name.
The LondonHouse, 85 East Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois, wasn’t named for that British metropolis across the pond, but for its history right there at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive.
One of the “big four” skyscrapers at the confluence of the Chicago River and the Michigan Avenue bridge, it was built in 1922-23 for the London Guarantee and Accident Insurance Company. From the 1950s through the early 1970s the building also housed Chicago’s famous jazz supper club The London House in its ground floor.
The Beaux Arts building by architect Alfred S. Alschuler was bought in the summer of 2013 by Oxford Capital Group, a Chicago developer, and with the addition of a Modernist all-glass tower addition, was transformed into a 452 room luxury hotel, with its distinctive pillared cupola presiding over a rooftop bar.
Every detail says “Chicago”, from the custom designed carpeting recalling the long strings of pearls worn by ’20s flappers and the geometric grids of river bridge supports. Photographs of Chicago landmarks and architectural details adorn hotel room walls. Then, there are the huge windows — even in the bathrooms — with majestic views of buildings north along the Magnificent Mile and both east and west on the Chicago River.
The room decor is a sophisticated white and dark brown with discrete touches of gold. There’s complimentary WiFi (of course), a fitness center and a pared-to-the-essentials spa.
Amenities in bathroom with its black marble vanity were a brand I’ve not seen before. The unexpected scent of the Malin+Goetz rum bar soap, however, was so divine I had to take some home. Rooms have mini-fridges, 55-inch television screens, walk-in showers and coffee makers.
As can be expected in Chicago, the Rooftop Bar is open only in good weather (but do go up to the 22nd floor anyway just to check the view). Serious dining and drinking is available one floor down in LH on 21, including a continental breakfast service in the mornings.
The location of the LondonHouse is Chicago’s ground zero: the exact spot where Fort Dearborn — the stockade fort built in 1803 that would eventually become Chicago. The Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower are just across the river from the hotel.
LondonHouse is part of Curio – A Collection by Hilton. You can make reservations on the hotel’s website — rooms start about $210 — or on one of the booking sites such as Travelocity or Expedia.
(Photos courtesy of LondonHouse and Susan McKee, who was a guest of the hotel)