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Demolished Edgewater Beach Hotel’s Sister Resort In Mississippi Met Similar Fate

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Edgewater Gulf Hotel, Edgewater Park, Mississippi

Chicago architects Benjamin H. Marshall and Charles E. Fox are probably best known for designing the still-standing Drake Hotel in Downtown Chicago. But here in Edgewater, the building that brought them the most fame was the Edgewater Beach Hotel.

Opened in 1916 and demolished in 1969 or 1971 (depending on the source), the lavish resort hotel was frequented by musicians, gamblers and other famous stars.

Meanwhile, the Edgewater Beach Hotel had a sister hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi, as well, roughly 900 miles south of Chicago before it was demolished in 1971.

The two buildings are similar in name and parentage but differ in location and architectural details and design.

“If one hotel alone were to capture the spirit and grandeur of the faded elegance of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Edgewater Gulf would likely be the candidate for the honor,” according to Tom Barnes, who wrote a Nov. 19, 2009, post about what he called the Queen of the Coast on the Preservation in Mississippi blog.

Barnes said developers broke ground for the 400-bedroom Edgewater Gulf Hotel on Feb. 26, 1926, and that the hotel’s “clean and almost modernist appearance was broken only by its Moorish central tower. He said it was the largest hotel on the coast at that time.

“Set in verdant gardens, the hotel was designed to appeal to wintering midwesterners and others who would likely take the Illinois Central down from Chicago,” the blog continued.

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The Marine Dining Room, Edgewater Gulf Hotel

During the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, the Edgewater Beach was Chicago’s place to see and be seen, according to WTTW’s Chicago Stories.

Countless weddings, proms, dances and other events drew neighborhood residents, the website said. On any given night, you could rub elbows with celebrities such as Bette Davis, Tallulah Bankhead, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Marilyn Monroe, and major sports figures including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, to name a few. All the big bands played there: Tommy Dorsey, Xavier Cugat, Wayne King and many others.

Hotel manager (and later president) William Dewey “was a showman,” historian Kenan Heise said. “He was good at booking top names into the Edgewater Beach, and that was very much a part of its allure.”

According to the Edgewater Historical Society’s website, the hotel was designed in the form of a Maltese cross and had 400 rooms. It opened in June 1916 and was an instant success.

The Edgewater Beach Hotel had a private beach that came from parkland created east of Lake Shore Drive when it was extended from Belmont to Foster in the early 1930s.

“The additional land that was created had the effect in turn of creating an extended natural sand beach for both the Edgewater Beach Hotel and the Saddle and Cycle Club to the south of it,” the Edgewater Historical Society said.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago said that, during the 20th century, Edgewater solidified its status as one of the most prestigious residential areas in Chicago. In 1898, the exclusive Saddle and Cycle Club relocated to Foster Avenue, on the lakefront.

3686727181_c05b28ee09“The Edgewater Beach Hotel and the Edgewater Beach Apartments, finished in sunrise yellow and sunset pink, served as local landmarks,” the website said. “Residential Edgewater’s wealth reinforced the glamour of recreational Uptown.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, after Fox died in 1926, Marshall designed the pink, and still standing, Edgewater Beach Apartments, which were part of the Edgewater Beach Hotel. The apartments are located at the southeast corner of Bryn Mawr and Sheridan.

“As it did to so many architects, the Depression destroyed (Marshall’s) practice,” Blair Kamin said in a March 31, 2016, story about a new book about Marshall. “Marshall filed for bankruptcy in 1934 and then sold his exotic Wilmette mansion to department store magnate Nathan Goldblatt. He eventually moved into, and helped manage, the Drake Hotel, supervising the design of such famous interiors as the Cape Cod Room, where, the timeline tells us, ‘his own recipes found their way onto the menu.’”


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