This post is part of a series of studies of classic Chicago Building Types. Each city has a history of materials, wealth, population shifts and popularity, hopes and dreams, written in its buildings. Don’t miss our posts on Chicago Bungalows, Worker Cottages, Greystones, Courtyard Apartment Buildings, Four-Plus-One Apartments, Fire Cottages and Skyscrapers.
Where did the Residential Hotel Come from?
High profile high rise buildings in North Side (and lake shore) neighborhoods make up a big segment of Chicago’s most visible housing stock. These days they tend to make headlines by being transformed from dingy and unsafe low-rent units into trendy micro apartments but where did these very small living spaces come from originally?
Until the advent of the passenger elevator, nearly all multi-unit housing in the US was considered undesirable and low class. However, once residents no longer needed to hike up the stairs, the idea of living high above street level rapidly changed from a burden to a feature.
Gilded Age Lifestyles of the Urban Rich and Famous
The new luxury apartment buildings constructed after 1880 allowed for all of the traditional trappings of wealth (people to answer the door, make deliveries, clean and prepare meals) to be efficiently combined the newest technology (electricity, central heat and cooling, telephones) that was difficult to install in existing grand homes. Sharing the services of doorman, cooking and cleaning staff, even made the expected luxury service more economical, especially for owners of residences in multiple cities or countries who often left a household closed for much of the year.
The new residential apartment buildings allowed people to live in the maximum amount of luxury they could afford – varying in size and scope as shown at left in the plan of the Algonquin Hotel in New York.