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The Palmer House

Updated: December 22, 2023
 By Mel

chicago palmer house ceiling Have you ever stepped into The Palmer House Hotel on State Street in Chicago?  It is a breathtaking, historic must-see for anyone visiting the Second City.

Potter Palmer was a wealthy and influential Chicago businessman who played a significant role in developing Chicago's Gold Coast and Chicago's State Street.  One of his most famous and romantic endeavors was a rather lavish wedding gift to his young bride, Bertha Honore:  The Palmer House Hotel.

The Palmer House was open and thriving for 13 unlucky days before it burned to the ground during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  Potter was quick to rebuild a bigger, better, and now claiming to be a fireproof hotel.

The lobby is exquisite.  Be sure to look up at the ceiling which is covered in frescoes.  Bertha was an avid art collector who filled the hotel with many treasures including Tiffany 24-karat gold chandeliers and his two large bronze statues entitled "Winged Angels" which weigh 1.25 tons each.  She soon had the second largest collection of impressionist art (which she bequeathed to the Art Institute.)

Chicago Palmer House brownie Yonzon Photography Arguably the most wonderful treasure that Bertha is responsible for was the invention of the brownie.  Once you've tried it, you can already taste the gooey chocolate just thinking about it.

The brownie was created by the pastry chef's at the Palmer House when Bertha requested the chef to make a "ladies dessert". She wanted a dessert to bring with her to the 1893 World's Fair that would not crumble like a cake and could easily be packed in a box lunch.

Good news: The Palmer House still serves the original recipe brown which includes a light apricot glaze and walnuts.  You can order it in the lobby, at the restaurant, or in a "to-go" box as perhaps Bertha would have preferred.

Chicago Palmer House Mel


Tour guide Mel had the pleasure of personally enjoying this brownie and swears it was delicious.  It’s history being served on your plate!

+++Don't forget to check out our famous pay-what-you-like walking tours of Chicago.+++

Written by Mel Yonzon
Photos by Yonzon Photography

About The Author


Mel loves to be a tourist in her own city. With a background in performing arts, tourism, and photography, giving tours and being a story-teller comes naturally to her. She loves traveling, food, and theatre. Mel splits her time between Chicago and Los Angeles (#theatrelife) and leads tours and manages both cities!
Updated: December 22nd, 2023
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