Morrison Hotel

Clark and Madison Streets
Built 1913, demolished 1965
Architects: Holabird & Roche

For much of the twentieth century, the Morrison, at the southeast corner of Madison and Clark Streets, was widely considered to be one of the city’s premier hotels.

The first Morrison Hotel, a four-story structure, was built at Madison and Clark in the late 1800s and quickly became a focal point in the social life of the city. Brisk business allowed the proprietors to expand the hotel to eight floors. When investor Harry C. Moir purchased the Morrison in 1903, plans were laid for an even larger structure, one that would earn the hotel national recognition. The first section of the improved hotel was completed in 1913 and contained 519 rooms. In the hopes of elevating hotel service to new heights, every room in the new structure included a private bath, an amenity which, by the early 1910s, had not yet become commonplace in the hotel industry.

Additional sections of the Morrison were opened in 1916 and 1925, increasing the capacity of the hotel even further. In 1927, the hotel’s signature forty-six story tower was completed, giving the Morrison a total of 2,500 guest rooms and the right to claim itself the “World’s Tallest Hotel.” The tower and its flagpole reached 637 feet into the air and offered guests not only cool breezes but also incomparable views of the lake and skyline. When the hotel’s tower opened, it ranked as one of the tallest buildings in Chicago.

At street level, the Morrison was graced by two lobbies, the one opening into Madison Street being the more elegant. It was designed in the Georgian style and featured a gray marble floor, wood-paneled walls, a 28-foot ceiling, and a marble front desk with cast bronze ornamentation.

Elsewhere on the first floor were the enormously popular Boston Oyster House and the Terrace Garden dinner theater, both of which attracted visitors and Chicagoans alike. The Cameo Room ballroom was another well-liked hotel attraction, where, every New Year’s Eve, hundreds of Chicagoans converged to dance, sip champagne, and celebrate the new year.

As more modern hotels opened in the 1950s and 1960s, the Morrison’s financial position began to slip. Gradually, the aging hotel became less and less profitable and was eventually closed. The building was razed in the summer of 1965 and is now the site of the First National Bank Building.

Internet Resources
Photograph: Harry C. Moir, owner of the Morrison Hotel, 1925 [Library of Congress]
Photograph: Crowds standing on the sidewalk in front of the Morrison Hotel, 1927 [Library of Congress]
Photograph: Crowds standing on the sidewalk in front of the Morrison Hotel, 1927 [Library of Congress]