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Built by business tycoon Potter Palmer as a wedding gift for his bride, Bertha Honoré, the Palmer House has a 145-year history that spans three constructions, a restoration, and the birth of one famous chocolate pastry. Opening on September 26, 1871, the Palmer House was built on the corner of State and Monroe Streets in downtown Chicago. Just 13 days later, it fell victim to the famous Great Chicago Fire, which destroyed much of the hotel and the surrounding area.
Immediately after, Palmer secured a $1.7 million signature loan and hired famed architect John M. Van Osdel to construct the world’s fanciest hotel, and one that also happens to be fireproof. The second Palmer House opened in 1875 to many accolades for its luxurious décor, beautiful rooms, and incredible attention to detail. The hotel is also famed for its invention of the chocolate brownie, first made by Palmer’s wife for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.
Between 1923 and 1925, the new Palmer House was built on the same site of the original hotel. Shortly after the conclusion of the Second World War, Conrad Hilton purchased the Palmer House for $20 million and renamed it the Palmer House Hilton. Today, the Palmer House is owned by a private equity firm, but remains part of the Hilton hotel chain. The Palmer House Hilton is a member of Historic Hotels of America and is currently the second largest hotel in the city.