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Rooms With Memories

The grand Blackstone hotel was a favorite of U.S. presidents, movie stars, smart-set Chicagoans, and jazz musicians. Now, after decades of decline, it’s beautifully buffed up and back in business

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The site of almost 100 years of meetings, weddings, and fetes, the reimagined Crystal Ballroom pops with a Warholesque, Monet-gone-mad flowewr rug. On with the dance.


One afternoon when Psihas and I are making our routine promenade, Mayes comes along, and we go up to the roof of the hotel. Taking in the view, Mayes lets loose with his from-here-to-eternity speech in the sonorous tones of the Renaissance man Paul Robeson: “We’re a five-minute cab ride to Michigan Avenue,” he says. “Five minutes to the financial district, a short walk from Millennium Park and the Art Institute. Our front yard is Grant Park. We’re the closest hotel to the convention center.”

In a phone interview, Isenberg says that he expects The Blackstone to receive four to four and a half stars out of five from the two top hotel-rating organizations. “We will compete with hotels in the South Loop,” he says, “just because of location, and we will compete with other hotels based on rates, service, and amenities.”

When it comes to history—to lore and legends—The Blackstone has a definite edge. Many devotees of the hotel are wistful about the romance and adventures of the days gone by. With the rebirth of The Blackstone, there is a time and a place to begin collecting 21st-century memories in an almost 100-year-old hotel.

The Blackstone—A Renaissance Hotel, 636 South Michigan Avenue; 312-447-0955

 

Photograph: Mike Schwartz

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