Uptown Chicago Resources

“Remembering the Edgewater Beach Hotel” by Adam Langer

Remembering the Edgewater Beach Hotel

Part 6

Edgewater Beach Hotel Passagio.

A lovely passagio connected the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Image courtesy CRCC collection.

Alice Ann Knepp, Dorothy Hild Dancers:

They had a big parade for MacArthur through Chicago and they built a large platform in front of the hotel; at that time we were doing a floor show with a rose number at the hotel. Our costumes were made to look like roses and we did a number called “Roses of Picardy.” We stood lined up in front of the hotel with large bouquets of roses and, as MacArthur and his wife drove past the Edgewater Beach, we threw the roses and one of us gave a bouquet to Mrs. MacArthur.

I remember reading the headlines in the paper which said, “Scantily Clad Chorus Girls Greet MacArthur.” He was there driving in an open convertible. That was true. But we weren’t scantily clad.

Ruth Homeuth, line captain, Dorothy Hild Dancers:

I’d work and then I’d quit and then I’d come back, but I remember I was there when MacArthur drove by. How could I forget? We had to get up at six in the morning and put on false eyelashes. We were standing out there with our costumes on when General MacArthur rode by. We were in full regalia.

John Schlimmer, station manager, WEBH FM:

It was a super place when I was a kid. It looked expensive. It was a place that as a kid you wouldn’t even approach. We were so in awe of this place. It was so colorful. The cupolas were lighted with floodlights that were purple, pink and amber. I remember the time when Shirley Temple stayed there. I was a little kid about ten years old and I remember thinking “Gee whiz—just a few blocks away...”

Edgewater Beach Hotel Room.

A typical bedroom at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Image courtesy CRCC collection.

Betty Gray, organist:

Robert Taylor once came in the dining room by himself and this waitress looked over and practically fainted. She was in a state of shock. Serving him was the big event in her life.

Merv Griffin used to sing there and I talked to him a lot. I thought he was a very aggressive individual, an excellent dresser. He would wear a beautiful camel hair coat that they wore in those days. Back then, if a young man wanted to look well dressed, he’d wear a camel hair coat. And he was a trained pianist with an excellent background. He played a fine piano and was a very good singer and an excellent musician.

It’s funny the things you remember. James Petrillo, head of the musicians’ union, used to come there quite a bit. He used to come in with some lady that had a big plume in her hat and the differences in their heights made the plume waft against his nose while they were dancing, which greatly amused all the musicians there.

Dixie Crosby, Bing’s wife, used to come there quite a bit. Fran Allison, from Kukla, Fran and Ollie. I remember one funny story about a gentleman who shall remain nameless.

The hotel was built with angles that jutted out and gave you beautiful views. And there were these old people that would be there and they would look across the way and, one time, there was this nude man waving at them. That stirred more interest in the hotel, I think, than anything. These women came down to the manager in droves and complained to the manager that there was this man making obscene gestures at them. He was making gestures to the ladies in the hotel.

It was kind of funny because he happened to be in the show that night. But he wasn’t there that night. He left in a hurry. I asked, “What happened to him? Did he die?” I remember somebody said, “No, but he did worse than that.”

The Edgewater Beach Hotel had all sorts of shops and meetings rooms and ballrooms. There was a free limousine service that ran hourly from the hotel to Marshall Field’s. If you didn’t want to take a cab to the hotel from the airport, 25 bucks could get you a helicopter ride to the Edgewater Beach’s heliport at the top of the hotel. Dave Kiddy worked there as a doorman from 1948 to the day the hotel closed. He got his brother Fred a job there too. Now, Dave and Fred Kiddy are doormen at the Park Hyatt on Chicago Avenue.

Edgewater Beach Hotel Room.

Flower Shop at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Image courtesy CRCC collection.

David Kiddy, doorman:

I walked in off the street and I got a job as an elevator operator. From an elevator operator to a bellman. From a bellman to a doorman. That was a hotel that when you checked in, you did not have to leave the hotel for anything. I mean anything. You had your barbershop, your beauty parlor, your drugstore, your liquor store, your ladies’ shop, your men’s shop, your children’s shop, photographer’s studio, gift shop. Name it, you had it. There was a valet shop. Your own laundry. Your own bakery. Your own candy.

Gus Travlos, manager of the Captain’s Table dining room:

That was a beautiful hotel. It wasn’t a hotel really. It was a resort within the city that was beautiful. Every part of it. The outside and the inside, everything was beautiful. All the top people in the world came through there. The food, the service, the class that the hotel had, you couldn’t find it today.

The first time I saw the Edgewater Beach Hotel, I was driving north on Sheridan Road and I stopped on Balmoral at the stoplight. I saw a friend of mine standing there and he said. “I’m working here. Let’s grab a cup of coffee.” I walked in and I said, “Wow! This is a hotel?” I couldn’t believe it. The lobby. The dining rooms. I was speechless.

I couldn’t believe the beauty, the structure. The things I’ve seen there, I’ve never seen in Europe, and you know in Europe we have a lot of class. I’d been at the Congress Hotel, the Blackstone, the Hilton, but there was no comparison. And, when he asked me to work for him, I said, “Wow! I thought we had class in Europe.” The guy was laughing. He knew I was so impressed that I couldn’t believe it. That was quite a sight.

Aeroplane Viwe of the Edgewater Beach Hotel.

Aeroplane View of the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Image courtesy CRCC collection.

Marilou Hedlund resident:

It was a wonderfully unique place. It was the kind of place where my father would go down every day for a shave in the barbershop and, once a week, I was permitted to watch and get my shoes shined. When it was a privately owned hotel, there was a special kind of caring that nobody could afford today.

It was a different era that was long gone probably at that time. It was the kind of place that on birthdays every permanent resident would receive a beautifully decorated cake with his name on it. And not just kids. My mother got one. My father got one. And on Halloween, they would send up beautifully carved pumpkins. They were sculpted. And at Christmas and at Thanksgiving there would be fruit baskets.

There were wonderful little touches like that. I imagine it was like living in a gracious manor house in England. It was phenomenal and I’m glad to have had a taste of it. I haven’t had anything like it since.

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