[Auditorium Annex (1893) Clinton J. Warren, architect /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
In a world that’s constantly changing, especially in the hospitality industry, its nice to find a remnant that brings us back to a time long gone. When the shareholders of the Auditorium Building got wind that a competitor was going to build a new hotel directly across Congress Street from their troubled investment, the group purchased the site and commenced construction of an Annex. One hundred and eighteen years later, the still operating hostelry contains hints of its once grand lobby.
[Auditorium Annex – Congress Plaza Hotel, 520 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Although the smoked glass panels in the arches, the chandeliers, sconces, as well as the furniture are from a more recent era, there remain elements of the hotel’s glamorous, glory days. It is somewhat remarkable that after several changes in ownership and a series of names, The Congress, the Pick Congress, and today’s Congress Plaza Hotel, that anything of the old hotel survived a number of modernizations. At the beginning of the Second World War the military actually took over the building to provide temporary housing for soldiers. During their tenure they covered marble floors with linoleum for easier maintenance and turned the ballrooms into mess halls.
[Congress Plaza Hotel, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
After the military left and after a few more upgrades and modernizations, some of the stunningly beautiful surfaces of tile, marble and bronze survived though other parts of the building weren’t so lucky. One of the most spectacular interior spaces – in a city of spectacular interior spaces – the hotel’s Pompeian Room is now preserved for posterity in photos and old postcards.