History and Value at Chicago’s Congress Plaza Hotel – Chicago, Illinois, USA

Before checking in, I was immediately drawn to the enormous first floor lobby, which I explored at leisure. After getting my ninth floor lakeview room key, I opened a heavy door and was struck by the most breathtaking, crystal-clear view of Chicago.

The location is at a desirable crossroads, Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue, the very heart of one of America's great cities. Yet, you see seagulls dip and glide beneath powder blue gray skies in the spacious green park. The symphony of waters dancing from Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain drew my eyes to its glorious display. Grant Park is alive in the fall as the forest of trees and bushes magically turn from green to a rainbow of orange, deep fiery red and yellow.

I look to my left and marvel at the fantastic architecture – Millennium Park. I look to my right and stand in awe before the manicured lawns in front of Chicago’s historical Museum Campus. I look down and see an American flag in a rounded triangle lawn that divides east and westbound traffic.

There are two large sculptures of Native Americans, the Bowman and Spearman, on horseback positioned with bows and arrows at the corners of the triangle that expands at the top, seemingly to prepare the human eye for the beauty beyond. The Bowman and Spearman are bronze, act as Gatekeepers. They were made by a Croatian artist, Ivan Mestrovic, and were erected in front of the Congress Plaza Hotel in 1928.

You are in the Past
Picture yourself here before the turn of the century, tuxedoed gentlemen accompanied by ladies dressed in flowing silk gowns with fans and fringes, escorted in and out of their horsedrawn carriages by liveried doormen. Your carriage waits in front of this grand hotel, built for the World's Columbian Exposition. An underground tunnel named the Peacock Alley, leads you to the doorstep of Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre where, with a little luck and planning, you hand over the coveted tickets the concierge has managed to get you for this evening’s opera.

Now it’s 1912, while waiting for the elevator, Teddy Roosevelt tells you, “This is my favorite place to stay”, a day before he makes his famous Bull Moose speech. The same magnificent Congress Hotel is here today. Its glorious history made me want to experience it first-hand, and am I glad I asked for a lakeview room. You see the rising sun gleaming as it gently shines over the threshold of the expanse of Lake Michigan.

A Little Description
The Congress Plaza is a midrise, at 14 floors high. Natural surroundings and people watching draw you into living the present moment, forgetting your cares for a little while. It is a gem and a lovingly restored relic. Most of the lakeview rooms feature a charming antique interior which adds to the authenticity of a Chicago landmark hotel standing proudly since 1893.

I liked the grandeur of the rooms, high ceilings, large windows. You won’t find this in most modern hotels. I was drawn to the room’s elaborate furniture. The thick headboards and dressers were made by special order, imported from Israel and Egypt.

For history, location and value ($149.00 a night), it's hard to find a better place to hang your hat in Chicago. When you make reservations be sure to add, "A lakeview room, please". Visit the Congress Plaza site.

Read more of Sheila Cull on her website. It is under construction at this time.

For international travelers visiting the USA, check out the Chicago Travel Guide

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