History of The Blackstone
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Our Story

A Historic Chicago Hotel

Our Story

Since 1910, The Blackstone has attracted celebrities, socialites, and politicians. Appropriately named “The Hotel of Presidents,” this historic Chicago hotel has hosted several heads of state, from Teddy Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter. The Astors, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts were also frequent visitors, as were such revered icons as Lena Horne, Nat King Cole, and Rudolph Valentino. The hotel also had a notorious streak, favored by legendary mob bosses “Lucky” Luciano and Al Capone.

Despite the hotel’s years of being shuttered after a failed attempt to turn the building into a premier condominium complex, The Blackstone was revamped and reborn in the new millennium, evolving into one of the most admired hotels in Chicago, Illinois. View the Blackstone’s timeline below.

Late 1800s

Mansion is Built

Timothy Blackstone

Blackstone worked in the railroad industry as president of the Chicago and Alton Railroad from 1864 through 1899, was a founding president of the Union Stock Yards, and served one term as mayor of La Salle, Illinois.

Timothy Blackstone, president of Union Stock Yards and the Chicago & Alton Railroad, builds his mansion on the intersection of South Michigan Avenue and Hubbard Court (now Balbo Street).

1900

Blackstone's Mansion is Sold

At the time of Timothy Blackstone’s death, his wife sells the mansion to hoteliers John & Tracy Drake.

1908

The Blackstone Hotel is Planned

Original Floor Plans

Marshall was inspired by a trip to Paris which he took right before designing the hotel.

The mansion is demolished and construction begins for a new hotel planned by famed Chicago architects Marshall & Fox.

1910

Opening Day

The Blackstone Open

The hotel transforms Michigan Avenue and becomes the tallest building at the time.

On April 6, the Blackstone Hotel opens to enthusiastic fanfare. Enrico Caruso, the opera legend, performs at the opening ceremony

1920s

Capone's Barbershop Visits

Pineapple Primary

Al Capone, head of the cruelest cutthroats in American history, had deep roots in Chicago. He held meetings while getting his haircut in the windowless barbershop at The Blackstone. In this image, French exposes the tension between the romanticized lifestyle and cruel reality of life in the mob.

1920

Warren Harding Celebrates at The Blackstone

Smoke Filled Memory

An Associated Press reporter dubs Suite 915 the “smoke filled room” when Republican leaders and party power brokers meet secretly in this room and nominate Warren G. Harding as their party’s candidate for president.

1930s

Armstrong's Jazz Inspiration

World on a String

It was in the clubs and record studios of Chicago that Louis Armstrong truly became a star, and secured jazz its indisputable legitimacy as an art form. In World on a String, Hill depicts Armstrong in all his glory, rising like a sun behind the skyline of Chicago, spreading his world-changing, joy-inducing music over the entire city and beyond.

1931

First Organized Crime Convention

Charles “Lucky” Luciano hosts the first-ever Crime Convention in the Crystal Ballroom of the Blackstone. The event was hosted with the intent of establishing a board of directors for his “National Crime Syndicate”.

1940s

Hepburn's Lifestyle

Kate the Great

Encouraged by Hepburn’s unconventional lifestyle and spirited personality, Hill’s piece pays homage to “Kate the Great,” and the poised example of empowerment she set for future generations. Hill grew up watching Katherine Hepburn’s films, and to this day, she still uses Kate’s recipe for brownies.

1944

Harry Truman Visits the Hotel

Hotel Lobby

Harry Truman negotiates privately by phone with his wife in the Suite of Presidents as he reluctantly ponders whether to accept the VP nomination to run with Roosevelt. He also treated his staff to the “Missouri Waltz” on the piano.

1950s

Marilyn's Chicago Visits

Sleepless Nights

Marilyn Monroe’s quote “Who said nights were for sleep?” sparked the inspiration for the image that embodies the promise and possibilities of a night on the town. French grew up outside of Detroit and frequently visited Chicago, so the art scene holds a special connection for her. She works primarily in collage, ink and mixed media.

1952

Eisenhower is Nominated

Eisenhower watches his nomination for president in the Suite of Presidents.

1959

A Royal Visit

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor stay at The Blackstone.

1962

Kennedy Stays at The Blackstone

Cuban Missile Crisis

The president first learns of the Cuban Missile Crisis while dining in the Suite of Presidents

President Kennedy enjoys the hotel’s Boston Clam Chowder in the Suite of Presidents before rushing back to DC for negotiations on the Cuban missile crisis.

1987

The Blackstone Makes the Big Screen

The Color of Money, starring Paul Newman, is filmed in the Crystal Ballroom.

1995

The Hotel is Sold

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru to the Beatles, purchases the Blackstone.

1998

History is Made

Chicago declares the Blackstone a historic landmark.

1999

The Hotel Closes

The Blackstone is shuttered after the Maharishi Yogi’s unsuccessful attempt to convert the hotel into a luxury condominium complex.

2006

Transformation

The Crystal Ballroom

Sage Hospitality acquires the hotel and begins a 2 year transformation

2008

Reopening

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The Blackstone reopens as the Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel

2012

NATO Conference

The Chancellor of Germany and the President of Poland stay at the Blackstone historic Chicago hotel during a NATO conference.

2017

Revitalization

The Blackstone Chicago Reimagined

Today The Blackstone offers modern accommodations boasting views of Lake Michigan and Grant Park, acclaimed dining, iconic meeting spaces, and thoughtful details.

The Blackstone undergoes a revitalization and is converted to The Blackstone, Autograph Collection.

Autograph Collection Number Assigned

Becoming #125

Autograph Collection has designed unique artwork for each hotel representing the order in which they joined the collection.