Uptown Chicago Resources


Chelsea Hotel. Image courtesy CRCC collection.

Vintage postcard of the Chelsea Hotel. Image courtesy CRCC collection.

Chelsea Hotel

920 Wilson Avenue, the “Heart of the Uptown District”

The Chelsea Hotel was built in 1923 and designed by Benjamin Leo Steif (1894-1953), well-known for his small commercial buildings and elegant apartments including the Sheridan Grace Apartments (1927), The Barclay Condominiums (1929), and the 10 West Elm building (1929), located in the Gold Coast.

Chelsea Hotel. Image courtesy CRCC collection.

Vintage postcard of the Chelsea Hotel. Image courtesy CRCC collection.

In its early years, the 10-story Chelsea Hotel required guests to rent rooms on a monthly basis, no doubt to exclude any riff-raff and lower-class clientele. The policy was later relaxed, as the description on the back of the postcard image on the right, mailed in 1933, reads:

“356 rooms, each with private bath and shower or [just] shower. Located convenient to theatre, churches, and the famous Wilson Ave. bathing beach, in the heart of the great Uptown District. Garage in connection. Excellent dining room service at reasonable prices. Elevated, surface car, and bus transportation; outer drive from Loop for motorist. Attractive daily rates $2.00 and up.”

As is the case with most of the apartment hotels in Uptown (see also Belle Shore & Bryn Mawr Hotels), the Chelsea Hotel suffered in popularity when the surrounding neighborhood began its post-WWII slide into decay. After decades of neglect, it was bought by real-estate developer Leonard Richman and in 1967 converted into a retirement hotel for seniors. Renaming it Chelsea House, Richman added a new dining room and health care offices. In 1990, Chelsea House was purchased at a cost of $1.75 million by Jesus People USA, a Christian intentional community that originally came out of the 1960s “Jesus Movement.” They spent hundreds of thousands more refurbishing it into The Friendly Towers. Today it serves as a home for the community and offers affordable senior housing for “low-income, homeless, neglected, or abused senior citizens.”


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