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.)
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.
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