Considered one of the city’s great architectural jewels, Chicago’s 1895 Reliance Building has been home to the luxury boutique Burnham Hotel (part of the Kimpton Hotels) since 1999. I first discovered the hotel while on a walking tour of the city when I also learned about one of Chicago’s most well respected architects and city planners: Daniel Burnham—part of the team who designed the building in 1894-95.
Ever since I first stepped into its cozy welcoming lobby—with the fireplace and comfy chairs, and saw some the marble wainscoting, the terrazzo floors, and the cool black fancy iron elevator grills, it has been one of my favorite places to stay when I visit Chicago. It has that fashionable old world feeling—a beauty with classic lines and style–but without the snootiness or stuffiness.
With its prime location in the heart of the Loop, it’s close to Millennium Park, The Art Institute of Chicago and the theater district: views from many of the rooms include the famous neon “Chicago” theater marquee just down the street. (Others have views of Millennium Park or Lake Michigan).
As a fan and frequent visitor to the Windy City, I also like that the Burnham is close to my favorite Intelligentsia Coffee shop, and a Garrett’s Popcorn store is also nearby (the one on Randolph: I never leave without a large bag of their Chicago mix).
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975, the 14-story building was actually a primary prototype for the modern-day steel-framed skyscraper.
Portions of the interior were rebuilt to match the original, and I always ask to stay on one of the “historic” floors, if possible (rooms 1106 and 1107 are favorites of mine). I love the old mail slots on the doors and the brass doorplates and doorknobs.
I also love that these rooms still come with a real key, so no worries about de-magnetizing your card with your iphone on the way to the room—or even worse, having to go all the way back to the desk to get another when coming in after a late night at the theater.
You can certainly find many hotels in Chicago with bigger rooms, and if that is important to you, it’s something to consider. The Burnham’s 122 rooms range from double/double deluxe (175 square feet) to a variation of much larger Deluxe Suites: some with French doors and separate bedroom and living parlor. Prices start around $209 and go upwards. (If you have a car, parking is an extra charge.) Good to note: The Kimpton Hotels often offer special themed and/or seasonal package hotel deals that are worth checking out.
Rooms are all done in a royal blue and gold color scheme; beds have velvet headboards and lovely Frette linens. All have flat-screen t.v.s, and writing desks plus cool robes in leopard and tiger fabrics. (This is a pet friendly hotel, after all.) Although I have not used them, there are in-room spa services and there’s also a fitness room.
The hotel’s small bar is a friendly place to sip a glass of wine after an exhausting day of museum visits or shopping—but if you time it right, the Burnham offers complimentary wine in the early evening. In the morning, there is complimentary coffee in the lobby as well. (No coffeemakers in rooms.)
Even though there are plenty of fantastic places to eat in Chicago, I think the hotel’s Atwood Café is a beautiful setting with a great vibe, good food and service. I have eaten there on numerous occasions and never been disappointed.
Review by Donna Tabbert Long. Photos courtesy of the Burnham Hotel.