November 30, 2021
We're going back to 1961 for project no. 42 in Epstein's Top 100 Projects countdown. Essex Inn, a building located at the southwest corner of 8th and Michigan Avenue in Chicago, is a 14-story, 254-room glass and aluminum hotel.
The hotel was constructed for $6 million ($55 million in 2021) and was part of the Aristocrat Inns of America chain, which also included the Epstein-designed Ascot Inn, located at 11th and Michigan. In addition to hotel rooms, the Essex Inn also featured a rooftop garden and pool atop a 4-story, 200-car parking garage.
The groundbreaking ceremony for Essex, which took place on March 14, 1960, featured a massive cake shaped like the hotel itself. In one of the photos below, you can see former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, Ralph, Ray and Sidney Epstein, and one of the building's owners, Barney Weissbourd, carving the cake’s icing-filled swimming pool.
The developers of the hotel, Martin Gecht and Eugene Heytow, believed the Essex, as well as the Ascot, presented travelers with a new and informal atmosphere and that these motor hotels were what the modern traveler, car in tow, desired. And, as it turns out, Gecht and Heytow, were correct. The Essex was a huge success upon opening; grossing a millions dollars in the second half of 61 alone, aided in many ways by the visitors to Chicago-based conventions.