Score one for the preservationists.
We’ve just announced a new Chicago hotel, and it’s going to be something special. We’re taking over what had been one of Chi-town’s most threatened historic structures and converting it into a four-star, 281-room hotel in the Central Loop district. Known as the New York Life Insurance Building, the 14-story landmark was originally constructed in 1893-94 by architect William Le Baron Jenney, and his partner William Bryce Mundie. (The hotel is scheduled to open in 2016, but you can visit the building’s Facebook page right now.)
In a city known for its amazing architectural legacy, Jenney is a giant. He is one of the founders of the Chicago School of architecture and is the father of the American skyscraper, building the very first one — the 10-story Home Insurance Building — in 1884.
With wealth pouring into the city in the late 19th century, magnificent buildings rose up, creating the “LaSalle Street canyon.” Today, though, the New York Life Building is one of only three Chicago School skyscrapers left from that iconic era. But Jenney’s most profound innovation survives to this day: the steel skeleton.
Rather than using load-bearing masonry walls, as was the norm, Jenney devised a revolutionary internal steel-framework that allowed his buildings to reach unprecedented heights. Literally. Legend has it the idea for Jenney’s steel skeleton concept was spawned when he saw his wife leave a heavy book on top of a birdcage, without damaging it. (History does not record how the bird felt about perching beneath the Complete Works of William Shakespeare.)
Our new LaSalle building still sports a terra cotta façade, a monumental lobby with twin staircases and marble walls, coffered ceilings, and stately columns — all the makings for an incredible hotel arrival experience.
And we’re no strangers to adaptive reuse projects, giving new life to old buildings while still honoring their past. We’ve converted 13 historic properties into hotels, with four more set to open in the next two years. And when our South LaSalle Street hotel opens, it will feature a restaurant, two bars, retail space, and a view-enhanced top-floor ballroom. Not to mention a locally inspired décor created by our interior design maven, Ave Bradley, and Los Angeles-based design firm Beleco. (This will be our fifth hotel in Chicago, joining Hotel Burnham, Hotel Allegro, Hotel Monaco, and Hotel Palomar.)
So get ready for another spectacular Kimpton adaptation that will create a very unique travel experience. And rest easy, Chicago: The future of your beloved New York Life Insurance Building is, well, ensured in our care.