The Hilton Chicago has been home to much history over the span of 90 years. Designed in the Beaux-Arts architecture style, its doors opened in 1927 as the Stevens Hotel, run by James W. Stevens and his son Ernest. It was the largest hotel in the world at the time and was monikered a “City Within a City” for all the luxuries it afforded its patrons.
Though the Hilton Chicago has gone through many renovations since its opening, it still retains its original purpose set out by the hotels founder: to create an entirely self-sufficient city within a city environment, a place capable of offering the most extensive convention and conference facilities in a primary destination. The Hilton Chicago keeps James W. Stevens dream alive by maintaining the hotel’s classic integrity with all the luxury conveniences the modern traveler has come to expect.
Almost as idyllic a scene as in a Hallmark movie was my first experience with Chicago’s ‘Grand Jewel’ Hotel. My Aunt had worked with the hotel for years and had arranged for our families Christmas Party to happen in one of its beautiful penthouse suites. I was very young when this became our annual holiday tradition, but I remember how magically it all presented itself to be.
In the weeks leading up to the party, my Mother would take me and my sister shopping at Van Maur (a store that I would always imagine being featured in an old black and white movie- it had such an old Hollywood glamour to it that it always awed me when we got to go to the department store) and we would get new Christmas dresses that always made me feel like a princess when I wore them (and I would feel even more so like a princess when we would get up to that elegant suite on Christmas Eve and I got the chance to overlook the entire city from above).
The Hilton Chicago played a part in my Christmas fantasies for a good many years. In that hotel are memories that I love so much from getting beautiful copies of The Night Before Christmas and A Country Christmas and making my Dad trek up 29 flights of stairs because of my unexplainable fear of elevators. The Hotel became a magical place from my childhood, a place where once a year I could be a Christmas princess and just enjoy time with my family.
It’s been almost 8 years since we stopped having those grand parties and I must admit I miss the enchantment the Hotel gave my childhood Christmases. Now as a freshman at Columbia College, I walk past the Hilton every day to and from to school. With the holidays drawing nearer I remember all those seemingly magical Christmas adventures and I feel a bittersweet happiness knowing that those times are over but will be a memory I will cherish until the day I die. (Gia Spalla/ City of Stories Student)