Drake Hotel

The Drake Hotel, 140 East Walton Place, Chicago, Illinois, is a luxury full-service hotel, located downtown on the lake side of Michigan Avenue two blocks north of the John Hancock Center and a block south of Oak Street Beach at the top of the Magnificent Mile.

Overlooking Lake Michigan, it was founded in 1920, designed in the Italian Renaissance style by the firm of Marshall and Fox, and soon became one of Chicago's landmark hotels, a longtime rival of the Palmer House. It has 537 bedrooms and 74 suites, a six-room Presidential Suite, several restaurants, two large ballrooms, the "Palm Court" (a club-like secluded lobby), and Club International (a members-only club introduced in the 1940s). It is known for the contribution that its silhouette and its sign on the lake side of the building (the Oak Street side) make to the Gold Coast skyline.


Second-generation hotel magnates Tracy Drake and John Drake (1872-1964) acquired the property from the estate of Potter Palmer in 1916. The building was financed by a syndicate of family friends including members of the Palmer, Armour, Swift, McCormick families and the hotel's architects, Benjamin Marshall and Charles Fox. At the time of its completion, the Drake was the transition between the fashionable Gold Coast residential area and the new commercial north Michigan Avenue. The building's Walton Place main entrance avoided the commotion of the commercial thoroughfare and increased vehicular access. The Drake brothers upheld the family reputation as a main focus of social, commercial and political life in Chicago with its ownership and management of the city's two (see Blackstone Hotel) most prominent hotels as bookends of Michigan Avenue.

The Drake served as the original studios of radio station WGN when it was renamed from WDAP in 1924.

William Drake and his wife Elizabeth lived at the hotel for several years until the family lost the hotel during the Great Depression.

When Francesco ("Frank 'The Enforcer' Nitti") Nitto headed the Chicago Outfit in the 1930s through the early 1940s, he maintained his office here for a time in a suite of rooms.

Tourists visiting Chicago are often invited to have high tea at the Drake as an essential thing to do in the city. It includes several in-house luxury shops.

All the corridors and guest rooms were renovated in a $45 million five-year project from 1998 to 2003. A further $15 million was spent in 2005 and 2006 to add a fitness center, an executive conference center, and new luxury bedding and desks in all the guest rooms.

The Drake was one of just two United States hotels that were owned by Hilton International (which owns the Hilton brand outside the United States). In 2006, Hilton Hotels Corporation acquired Hilton International, and The Drake became part of the Hilton Hotels Corporation and The Hilton Family of Hotels.

Notable visitors

The Drake has been frequented by many heads of state, assorted celebrities, international personalities and members of the European aristocracy, some as long-term residents. Notable guests have included Winston Churchill, Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales (albeit 19 years apart), Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Hugh Hefner, Owe Lundberg, Frank Sinatra, the Marchese and Marchesa Chiaramonte-Ragusa. Prince Felix Yusupov, and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe carved their initials into the wooden bar of the Cape Cod Room. Diana, Princess of Wales stayed at the Drake Hotel during her only visit to Chicago in 1996, one year before her death.

Urban legends

According to local legend, John Drake (1826-1895) (the father of this hotel's founders) was standing with a hotel owner watching the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The owner seeing his hotel threatened by the flames offered to sell it for any price. Drake noticed that the wind direction was changing and made an offer and so founded the Drake Hotel. This urban legend cannot be true because it occurs 49 years before the hotel's founding. The story is probably confused with the interim New Tremont House purchase by John Drake, at the time of the Great Fire.

  • Scenes from the movies Mission: Impossible, Risky Business, My Best Friend's Wedding, Hero, What Women Want, Continental Divide, Flags of Our Fathers, and Wicker Park, were filmed at the hotel. Mission: Impossible mentions John Voight's character as having stayed there shortly before the events of the film.
  • Pop Culture - Trivial Pursuit version Genus II, published in 1984 consists of the following question. "Which of the Great Lakes does the luxurious Drake Hotel overlook, telephone 312-787-2200"


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