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100 Years of History

Historic Landmark Hotel

From Then to Now

In 2020 Kimpton Hotel Allegro invites you to join us for a year-long celebration as we pay homage to our roots. Like Chicago itself, the site of the Kimpton Hotel Allegro has a long, storied history. Founded as The Bismarck Hotel in 1894 by Emil and Karl Eitel, the hotel has lived several lives, and it wasn’t until after a full demolition in 1924 that the Art Deco-inspired sensation that houses Kimpton Allegro today was constructed.

It was the Eitel brothers, Emil, Karl and their siblings (Robert, Max and Otto, who later followed them to Chicago) who oversaw the hotel’s first rise to prominence at the turn of the 20th century, through its grand re-opening in 1926 as part of the renowned "Eitel Block" and into the 1930's and 40's where the hotel hosted stars of stage and screen as well as other influencers who helped shape the character of the city itself.

Take a look below at the timeline, and the role the Eitel brothers played in the evolution of 171 W. Randolph Street.



Hotel Facts

1890s
Eitel Brothers Immigrate to Chicago

Two of the Eitel brothers (Emil & Karl) immigrate to Chicago from Stuttgart, Germany in the early 1890s. Emil is first in 1890 followed by Karl in 1891.

1893
Fair Hotel Opens

Emil and Karl Eitel open the Fair Hotel, a guesthouse-turned-hotel on S. Cottage Grove Avenue and 63rd street on Chicago's South Side near the site of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The success they find here encourages them to fully pursue the hospitality industry.

1894-1895
Brothers Purchase Bismarck Hotel + Bismarck Gardens

The two Eitel brothers purchase the 4-story Germania Hotel at Randolph and Wells and rename it "The Bismarck" named after German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck. They also found the Bismarck Hotel Company as they further extend their reach in Chicago's hotel and restaurant scene. They are joined by their brothers Robert (in 1898) and Max (in 1901) who help them run the hotel as well as various restaurants around the city throughout the first half of the 20th Century.

In 1895 Emil and Karl also purchase a beer garden on the North side of the city and rename it Bismarck Gardens, extending the Bismarck brand. It is predominantly run by Max Eitel and renamed Marigold Gardens during WWI. Marigold Gardens is eventually sold during Prohibition.

1914-1919
Bismarck Renamed Randolph Hotel

During World War I, amid American anti-German sentiment, the Eitels change the hotel's name to The Randolph Hotel, changing it back after Armistice Day (November 11, 1919).

1924
Eitels Purchase The Neighborhood

In 1924, six years after the end of World War I, the Eitels purchase the entire south side of the block of Randolph between La Salle & Wells. It is then be known as the "Eitel Block."

In addition to their hotel holdings, they oversee the building of the 22-story Metropolitan Office building and the 2,500 seat Palace Opera Theater adjacent to the hotel.

The existing Bismarck Hotel is demolished to make way for a grand rebuild. In its place, the Eitels build a 19-story hotel with 600 guest rooms and a striking marble staircase off the lobby. The rebuild is designed by renowned Chicago architectural firm Rapp and Rapp, with help from a 5th Eitel brother, Albert, who had remained in Stuttgart and pursued a career in architecture.

1926
Bismarck Hotel opens as Randolph

The "new" Bismarck reopens in 1926 with just as much fanfare and success as it did the first time.

During Prohibition

The Palace Theatre becomes a must-stop along the vaudeville circuit with stars like Mae West, Jimmy Durante, Lillian Russell, Richard Mansfield, John Mason, May Irwin, Ellen Terry, Nat Goodwin and Julia Marlowe and Bob Hope performing there and staying at the adjacent Bismarck Hotel.

Dec. 5, 1933

The first post-Prohibition keg is tapped at The Bismarck's Walnut Room. Hundreds of revelers line up around the block and flood in immediately after midnight. The hotel goes down in history as the first place to legally sell alcohol again. Guests are even given paper hats in the shape of beer mugs with the phrase "Happy Days" printed on them.

1940s & 50s

As vaudeville and big bands go out of fashion, the Palace Theater begins hosting traveling Broadway shows and eventually becomes the biggest movie theater in the city in the 1940s.

The Bismarck hosts events for local and nationally known movers, shakers, movie stars and the like.

During World War II, they painted all of the brass lighting and scones throughout the building with white paint. Fearful the Government would reclaim to make bullets.

1956
Go Hawks

The Eitels sell the Bismarck Hotel to Arthur Wirtz, a renowned local Chicagoan who already owned the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team and Chicago Stadium, for just over $2 million.

1960s - 1980s
Democratic Party

Thanks to its close proximity to City Hall, The Bismarck becomes the unofficial meeting spot (and home to much behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing) for the Cook County Democratic Party under famed Chicago Mayor J. Richard Daley. Daley, was also head of the National Democratic Party during much of his time as mayor. Daley even had his own table in the Walnut Room with a private phone installed for his personal use.

1994

The 100th anniversary of the hotel, brings about the opening of the Green Orchid Room, an intimate lounge space (described as an "art deco cabaret and cigar club") in the hotel with live entertainment and its own "Green Orchid Girls." Vocalists like Jackie Allen, Frances Asher & Kurt Elling perform.

1997
Hotel Sold

The Wirtz family sells the former "Eitel Block" to PalMet Venture, LLC. who brings in Kimpton to manage and design.

1998
Renovations

The block undergoes a $31 million renovation and reopens in 1998 as the Hotel Allegro with operations handled by Kimpton Hotels. The renovations brought out the dramatic, theatre district flare of the hotel's past including refurbishing the grand marble staircase in the lobby and restoring original light fixtures that had been languishing in the hotel’s basement.

2014
Kimpton Hotel Allegro

Hotel Allegro begins a 2-year, $15 million renovation meant to further honor the Art Deco history of the Bismarck Hotel’s post-Prohibition heyday.

2020
100 Years of History

Kimpton Hotel Allegro celebrates the rich history of 171 W. Randolph Street.