Wednesday, July 10th, is the big day, the opening of The Langham Chicago in the 52-story IBM Building, at Wabash, State and the river, the last skyscraper designed by Mies. As we’ve related in the previous two parts of this series, Apotheosis of the Skyscraper, and How Do You Get to AMA Plaza?, it’s been a long road from the 1972 dedication of a state-of-the-art skyscraper for IBM, a state-of-the-art tenant, to a very different, stripped-down kind of economy that saw IBM abandon its namesake tower and the building largely empty out.

In 2006, the IBM was set to go residential, first with condos, and then, two years later, with a hotel.  After the 2008 crash, after pouring in millions, the developer decided the Chicago market couldn’t support another 300 rooms of hospitality.  Work stopped until 2010, when the property was bought out by Langham Hotels, who had apparently decided there might be room for another big hotel, after all.

Chicago will be the latest outpost of a burgeoning global chain that began with the acquisition of what was then the Langham Hilton in London’s Portland Place.  The Langham was one of the first ultra-luxury hotels.  Constructed in 1866 for the astronomical sum of £300,000 sterling, it was declared open by no less than the Prince of Wales, with a guest roster down through the decades including everyone from Mark Twain to Princess Diana (regrettably, not together.)Read more

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