The landmark Warwick Allerton Hotel opened in 1924 as a residential “club hotel.” It was a prosperous, exciting time in the heart of Downtown Chicago. The roaring 20’s saw Michigan Avenue open as a chic boulevard of clubs, shops, and hotels as developers sought to transform the area into the Champs Elysées of the United States. The building was constructed at a cost of $4 million in 1923 by The Allerton Hotel Company as a club hotel for men. The Chicago Allerton was the sixth club hotel built and operated by the company. Club hotels catered to single young men moving to large cities for white-collar jobs. In addition to their living quarters, residents could enjoy libraries and lounges, as well as a private dining room, grille room, barbershop, pharmacy, solarium, miniature golf course and gymnasium with squash courts.
Original two story entrance with stone staircases and stained glass ceiling
The Allerton Hotel was one of the first high-rises on North Michigan Avenue. Designed to be seen from all sides, the hotel was the first Chicago Building to feature the pronounced setbacks and towers later repeated in the cityscape. Murgatroyd & Ogden, a New York architectural firm, designed the building. The Allerton’s Northern Italian Renaissance architecture contrasted with the Georgian Revival and Tudor Revival styles popular at the time. Located in a neighborhood of 19th century row houses, The Chicago Allerton Hotel (it wasn’t known as the Warwick Allerton Hotel until 2014) was designed to look like a home. Its exterior featured dark red brick walls in projecting courses, round-arched windows and arcades, and a sculptural rooftop. In later years, as other high-rises popped up along the Magnificent Mile, the hotel’s red brick exterior was a standout among its gray concrete neighbors.
Post card of the Tip Top Tap Lounge in the 1940’s
By 1930, the hotel was accepting women, but management went to great lengths to avoid mixing men and women inhabitants. Residential floors and elevators were segregated by gender, with certain elevators designed to stop only on floors occupied by ladies. The women who lived there were, like their male counterparts, white-collar workers, most of whom worked in clerical jobs for Chicago’s large corporations.
In the 1940’s, The Chicago Allerton Hotel established itself as one of the city’s most exciting social hot spots. The Tip Top Tap, a cocktail lounge with striking views of the skyline, replaced clubrooms on the 23rd floor and was open to the public. A sign advertising the lounge was added to the top of the building, and the hotel became a popular after-hours entertainment spot for professionals who worked on North Michigan Avenue.
Chicago-area singers and musicians, as well as touring bands and orchestras, performed in the lounge regularly throughout the coming decades. Along with the Tip Top Tap, the hotel’s restaurant L’Escargot was considered the city’s best choice for French cuisine. The Tip Top Tap gained nationwide recognition when radio personality Don McNeil broadcasted his show from the lounge in the 1950’s. Airing on the ABC Radio Network until 1968, “The Breakfast Club with Don McNeil” was heard on over 400 radio stations across the country. The hour-long programs featured celebrities, songs, music and, above all, humor.
1954 Life Magazine
During the 1990’s, landmarks up and down the Magnificent Mile, including The Chicago Allerton, received extensive makeovers as older high-rises and historic buildings were returned to their previous grandeur. In 1998, the City of Chicago designated The Allerton a historic Chicago landmark. The hotel closed in August 1998 for a multi-million dollar restoration project and re-opened in May 1999. Today, after a further renovation in 2008-2009, the landmark Allerton is once again one of Chicago’s premier hotels. Its reinvented interior reflects influences from a classic era translated into a current and modern interpretation.