London Guarantee Building (LondonHouse Hotel)

85 E Wacker Drive Chicago

Odyssey Chicago River Experience/London Guarantee Building (LondonHouse Hotel)
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> The London Guarantee Building was built in 1923 for its namesake Insurance Company.

> The building was built on the site of Fort Dearborn.

> The Famous "London House" Jazz Club was a hotspot on the ground floor from the 1950s to the 1970s

> Currently, the building is home the luxurious London House Hotel.

The Site of Fort Dearborn

London House sits at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive. It was once home to Fort Dearborn, a United States military base built in 1803 as a key line of defense against Native American tribes that ringed the area. The fort was built by troops under the command of Captain John Whistler and was named in honor of Henry Dearborn, United States Secretary of War at the time.

A second Fort Dearborn was constructed on this site after the original was lost during the War of 1812 in the Battle of Fort Dearborn. Over time, Chicago slowly lost portions of the second fort, and it was completely destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

In 1923, the building you see here was constructed. The London House (originally London Guarantee Building) is an example of the Beaux-Arts style, complete with a flat roof and commemorative sculpture panels that honor the location of Fort Dearborn. It incorporates classical architectural elements such as the Corinthian Column and Roman figures. It can also be recognized by the cupola at the top of the building, which adds a layer of drama several stories above the roof.

From Jazz Club to Luxury

The London Guarantee Building was designed by Alfred Altschuler, who also designed the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. While originally built for the London Guarantee and Accident Company, the building has also been home to Stone Container Corporation, Crain's Communications, and Chicago's WLS (AM Radio) studios.

The building housed the famous jazz supper club, The London House, on the ground floor from the 1950s to the 1970s. During that time, a handful of musical greats graced the building with their talent. Performances include those by Oscar Peterson, Ramsey Lewis, Dave Brubeck, and Sarah Vaughan, among others. In one special performance, Frank Sinatra Jr. made his Chicago debut at the club for its 20th anniversary in 1966. When the building was purchased and transformed into a luxury hotel in 2013, it kept the name of the iconic London House.

Did you know?

The London Guarantee Building is known as one of the four 1920s anchors of the Michigan Avenue Bridge, along with the Wrigley Building, The Chicago Tribune Tower and 333 N. Michigan Avenue.

Cover image source: Lou Stejskal, CC BY 2.0, Flickr.

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