The History of the Breakers at Edgewater Beach in Chicago

The Breakers at Edgewater Beach, Chicago, played a big part of the area’s history throughout the 1900s. This glamorous hotel destination, and later apartment residential community, attracted visitors and residents for its beautiful beach access and lively nightlife and entertainment.

>> Read “The Famous Guests of the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago

While the hotel no longer exists, The Breakers at Edgewater Beach in Chicago resides on the old land and continues to provide residents with lots of enjoyable activities and close access to downtown Chicago. Here’s more about the history of the Breakers at Edgewater Beach, North Sheridan Road, go, IL.

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History of the Breakers at Edgewater Beach, Chicago, IL

The history of the Breakers begins with Chicago architect Benjamin Marshall. Marshall had also designed the Drake hotel and the South Shore Country Club in Chicago, both high-end destinations for affluent guests.

Marshall saw potential for Edgewater Beach, due to the area’s close proximity to Edgewater Beach and because the area lacked a glamorous hotel like Marshall could design. With his partner Charles Fox, the duo got to work on the Edgewater Beach Hotel, which would overlook Lake Michigan in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood.

The hotel began first as one building, shaped like the letter X, with 400 rooms and 8 floors. It opened in 1916.

In 1924, a second building was erected. The 18-story tower had 600 rooms. It connected to the first building via a passaggio that was lined with upscale shops.

Famous Guests

As one of Chicago’s most impressive hotels, the Edgewater Beach Hotel attracted many of the world’s biggest names to stay there when they were in the area. The hotel was known for its fine dining and its spacious ballroom. Guests had private access to a 1,200-foot beach from the hotel.

There was also a marble-floored Beach Walk from the hotel that nearly extended to Lake Michigan. It was common for guests to gather and dance along the Beach Walk.

The hotel also had a form of built-in publicity, resulting from radio shows that were broadcast from the hotel. We rounded up a list of famous guests of the Edgewater Beach Hotel, which included:

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States
  • Mahatma Gandhi, activist
  • Martin Luther King Jr., activist
  • Marilyn Monroe, actress
  • Jeanette MacDonald, American singer and actress
  • Johnny Weissmuller, Olympic swimmer, water polo player and actor
  • Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York, who played Samantha and Darrin Stevens on TV’s “Bewitched”
  • Yogi Berra and Babe Ruth, New York Yankees baseball players
  • Charlie Chaplin, actor and filmmaker

There were also lots of famous musicians and big bands who played at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. These included Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee, the Mills Brothers, Frankie Avalon, Paul Whiteman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Xavier Cugat.

Residents Come to Stay

In 1928, the Edgewater Beach Hotel’s brand expanded when the Edgewater Beach Apartments debuted. The apartments were also designed by Marshall and opened a block north, on the far side of the hotel’s garden and tennis courts. Marshall and Fox owned both the apartments and hotel, along with managing director William Dewey and president of the Edgewater Beach Hotel Corporation, John Connery.

The Edgewater Beach Apartments were intended to be rental apartments, where residents could enjoy resort-style living and had access to the amenities of the hotel. Near the apartments were convenient services including a barber, beauty shop, pharmacy, doctor, dressmaker, hatmaker, commissary, auto parts store, dentist, café and gift shop.

Moving On

After its heyday, the Edgewater Beach Hotel started to experience a decline in popularity. More hotels in the area were introducing air conditioning, which attracted guests.

In 1947, the hotel was sold to Chicago businessmen. They sold it a year later to the Hotel Corporation of America, which also included properties like New York’s Plaza Hotel. Dewey remained as manager.

The Edgewater Beach Apartments became a co-op in 1949. When Lincoln Park grew in the 1950s with Lake Shore Drive’s northward extension, the private beachfront the Edgewater Beach Hotel and Edgewater Beach Apartments had enjoyed was eliminated. After the Beach Walk disappeared due to loss of beach access, the hotel installed an Olympic-size swimming pool with cabanas.

In 1962, the H.R. Weissberg Corporation took control of the hotel, which went into further decline as maintenance problems went unattended and sections were closed off. In 1967, the new owners filed for bankruptcy and closed the doors. The 65 permanent residents of the hotel were forced to move immediately.

Briefly, the Edgewater Hotel served as a dorm for Loyola University. In 1971, it was torn down.

The Breakers Chicago Today

Today, the Edgewater Beach Apartments still stand and remain in business. There are frequently apartments for sale in this historic building, which retains its co-op status.

While the Edgewater Beach Hotel was torn down, there are still people who enjoy its land today. The Breakers at Edgewater Beach, a Senior Lifestyle community that offers Independent Living, fine dining and amenities to seniors, resides on the old Edgewater Beach Hotel site. The community includes continental breakfast, restaurant-style lunch and dinner, housekeeping and activities like gardening, games and crafts.

The senior community today remains just a 10-minute drive to downtown Chicago. Residents are still close to the beach, lake and everything else the Chicago area has to offer.

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Learn More About the Breakers and Retirement in Chicago

For seniors who are looking for safe, comfortable and enjoyable living options, the Senior Lifestyle community at the Breakers is a great option. Enjoy the convenience of housekeeping and delicious meals prepared to order. Gain access to transportation, social activities and much more at this independent living community in Chicago.

Find out more about Senior Lifestyle or schedule a tour today.

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For more information on retirement and senior housing options, reach out to a Senior Lifestyle community near you.