Now demolished, the Hyatt House Hotel, aka the Purple Hotel, was a Lincolnwood landmark, hosting celebrities, politicians, sports stars and mobsters. Its complicated history adds to the color of Lincolnwood, and Chicago.
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Find out more about the 50-year history of the Purple Hotel in Lincolnwood, Illinois, and its visitors.
The Glory Years of Chicago’s Purple Hotel
Ground was broken for the Hyatt House Hotel in Lincolnwood in 1960, at the corner of Lincoln and Touhy Avenues. It opened to the public in 1961.
The hotel, with bricks a vivid shade of purple, was a swinging hot spot during these years, acting as Hyatt’s flagship Chicago area hotel. It featured two restaurants and live popular music acts. One blogger says many Chicago teens had their bar mitzvah celebrations there.
Many performers coming through Chicago stayed there during the 1960s and 1970s, including Perry Como, Roberta Flack and Barry Manilow.
Chicago architect John Macsai told the Chicago Tribune the story behind the legendary hue of the building.
He said a member of the Pritzker family, owners of the Hyatt chain, wanted a unique look for the exterior of the building, saying the glazed beige brick Macsai suggested wasn’t “strong enough.”
“I made a terrible error,” he told the Tribune. “I brought the color catalog for him to look at. Never do that. Don’t allow the client that much freedom, because they will screw up.”
He said that when the family member saw purple in the catalog, he said that was what he wanted. But Macsai talked the Pritzkers into painting the exterior slabs, columns and braces white to offset the vivid color.
“I learned to like it,” Macsai said.
The Darker Side of the Purple Hotel
Michael Jordan used the Purple Hotel on his first visit to Chicago after being drafted in 1984 by the Bulls. But the hotel’s reputation started to slide in the 1980s and beyond. A murder suspected to be a mob hit was the beginning of the end for the Purple Hotel.
Teamsters lawyer Allen Dorfman was murdered execution-style in the hotel’s parking lot on Jan. 20, 1983. Dorfman had been convicted in December 1982 of conspiring to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon of Nevada and faced up to 55 years in prison, along with Teamsters’ president Roy Lee Williams and Chicago mob enforcer Joseph Lombardo. Speculation was that the Chicago Mafia may have been connected to his killing, out of fear that he would give details about his connection to organized crime so he could receive a shorter sentence.
Later that year, the owner of a plumbing company was murdered by one of his employees, reputed to be mentally ill, in the hotel.
The hotel was taken over by Village Resorts in 2004 and renovated, but that didn’t stop its downfall. Local police in Lincolnwood often made drug and prostitution arrests at the hotel, during an era of notorious sex parties and questionable conventions.
In 2006, more than 30 safety and health violations were discovered during an inspection, such as infestations of rodents and insects, improper garbage disposal, leaking roofs and mold in rooms. Renovations were deemed too expensive, and the legendary hotel closed in January 2007.
Despite the problems, the abandoned hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in July 2013, and was finally demolished the very next month. It was delisted from the register in 2020. A new hotel, apartments, restaurants and retail are planned for the former Purple Hotel site.
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