The Drake Hotel: A Timeless Tradition

The Real Chicago Through the Decades

This information originated in American English.

January 17, 2013


When Ben Marshall advanced the plans for The Drake Hotel in March of 1919, The Economist, a real-estate trade journal of the period, reported that the structure would be "of unusual
magnificence, nothing like it in appearance, arrangement or finishing having ever been attempted in this country."

Marshall took inspiration for the design of the hotel from the Italian palaces of High Renaissance Rome and Florence.

The hotel cost $10 million to build, including land, building, and furnishings.

The Drake opened officially on New Year's Eve 1920 with a gala dinner for 2,000 of Chicago's leading citizens. Unofficially, The Drake Hotel opened Thanksgiving Day welcoming 900 Drake employees into the hotel for a Thanksgiving feast, beginning the delectable tradition in the Gold Coast Ballroom of a Thanksgiving feast that is still continued

Nine hundred employees served its original 800 guest rooms.

Throughout the 1920s there were ducks and even baby alligators swimming in the fountain pond of The Drake's Palm Court (known as The Fountain Court at the time).

WGN's first radio studio was perched on the top of The Drake, and it was from here where the famous "Amos and Andy" radio show originated and was broadcast live along with the big bands that performed at the hotel.


HRH the Prince of Wales (later known as the Duke of Windsor) was a gust of The Drake thus establishing The Drake's 81-year tradition of serving as the Chicago home to Britain's royal family.

HRH Crown Princess Martha of Norway visited The Drake.

1932 - 1936
Celebrities such as President Herbert Hoover, Cecil B. DeMille, Bing Crosby, George Gershwin, Walt Disney, Kathryn Hepburn, Amelia Earhart, Guglielmo Marconi, Sinclair Lewis, Charles Lindbergh, and Gloria Swanson were all guests of the hotel.

The hotel's legendary Cape Cod Room opens for Chicago's Century of Progress World's Fair.

Coq d'Or is one of the first institutions in Chicago to serve alcohol after the Prohibition is repealed Dec. 5, only pouring whiskey at $.40 per glass due to demand.

The Fountain Court underwent a major renovation with the summer bring a garden like theme and in the winter a 2,000-pound fire place hood was suspended from the ceiling and the fountain was transformed into a fire place that set the winter/holiday tone.

As the benchmark for sophisticated hospitality, The Drake introduced the Club International in the 1940s. A reproduction of Haddon Hall, one of England's most noted medieval residences.

Joe DiMaggio carves his and Marilyn Monroe's initials into the Cape Cod Room's bar.

The Drake was the first hotel in Chicago to have all of its guest rooms air conditioned.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip stay in the Sapphire Suite.

The Drake made its own ice cubes until 1967, refusing to go to ice machines until the quality of product that the ice machines produced was deemed comparable to the "handmadecubes".

The Drake was the only hotel in Chicago that retained elevator operators well after others had dismissed the use of them, as it was felt they offered a better guest experience.

The Drake acts as host for Pope John Paul II on his visit to Chicago.

Risky Business, featuring Tom Cruise, is filmed at The Drake.

On a three-day visit that started June 4 and ended up being one of the biggest social events of the decade, Princess Diana got her first-ever taste of Real Chicago by staying at The Drake.

A $40 million refurbishment commenced.

About The Drake Hotel
Since 1920, The Drake has remained committed to its distinguished service and historic traditions. Located on Chicago's Magnificent Mile, The Drake Hotel offers 535 guest rooms and five on-site dining facilities. For more information about The Drake and its history, visit


Alicia Schindle
The Drake Hotel
+1 312 932 4327

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