by: chicago designslinger
[Auditorium Annex – Congress Hotel (1893) Clinton J.Warren, architect; (1902/1907)Holabird & Roche, architects /Image & Artwork:chicago designslinger]
When the owners of the recently opened Auditorium Hotel building learned that a long term lease had been secured for a chunk of property across the way for the construction of a new hotel, they lept into action. Although the Auditorium looked like one building from the outside, the 1889 Adler & Sullivan design was actually made-up of three components; a 4,300-seat auditorium, an office building, and a hotel, with the office rents and hotel rates meant to offset the cost of maintaining the expansive and expensive theater. So to help secure their multi-million dollar investment in the mammoth structure the partners bought-out the owner of the lease across the street and constructed the Auditorium Annex.
[Auditorium Annex – Congress Hotel, 520 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Designed by Clinton J. Warren, the exterior of the Annex paid homage to Adler & Sullivan’s design across the way. And although not an exact duplicate, Warren’s Michigan Avenue facing porch did mimic the Auditorium’s. An elaborate, large, arched door sat directly under the second story veranda which gave the building a beautiful distinctive entryway, lost in an updating modernization completed some 50 years ago.
[Congress Hotel, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The hotel grew over the next 6 years, first with a small 4-story addition in 1898 that masked a large power plant constructed behind it. In 1902 architects Holabird & Roche were called upon to design a 4-bay, 13-story addition which grew by another 8-bays in 1907, completing the hotel we see today. But not quite as the owners had planned. As the building marched southward down Michigan Avenue, large single-family mansions built by wealthy Chicagoans as far back as the 1850s were demolished to make way for the hotel. But that didn’t happen with the very last parcel at the northwest corner of Michigan and Harrison Street.
[Congress Plaza Hotel, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The aqua-paneled box at the southern edge of today’s Congress Plaza Hotel was once the site of the Jonathan Dunham mansion. When Dunham died in 1893 he left the house to his widow and children but stipulated in his will that the property could not be sold or leased until the death of his last surviving child. The Dunham’s youngest child Mary Virginia Dunham didn’t die until 1928 at age seventy-nine, after which the house was demolished and the property became a parking lot. In 1947 a 2-story building housing a restaurant was constructed on the site with a 99-year ground lease from the Dunham heirs. The Envoy Hotel was put-up on the small parcel in the late 1950s, and eventually the owners of the old Annex now the Pick-Congress Hotel, took possession of the corner lot.