The unmistakable, can’t-miss-it building at the corner of Touhy and Lincoln has housed a number of different hotel chains over the decades, but it has long been known by its most obvious description: The Purple Hotel.
Planned as the Hyatt-Lincolnwood, the Hyatt House-Chicago broke ground in January 1961, on the site of the Allgauers Fireside restaurant at Lincoln and Touhy, destroyed by fire in 1958. One year later, on January 17, 1962, the Hyatt House opened with a ballroom, conference spaces, an outdoor pool, and a million dollar Ray Foley restaurant. Architects for the hotel were Hausner and Mascal, with Freidman, Alschuler and Sincere designing the restaurant.
The place did fine into the 80s, when it was sold by the Hyatt and began a series of name changes. The Purple Hotel monicker was finally made official in 2004 by an independent operator.
Through it all, the Purple Hotel has acquired a rather legendary history in the annals of sleepy Lincolnwood. It was a swinging hot spot in its early days, hosing a variety of performers. In 1983, it was the site of the gangland execution of a mobster. Just a few years ago, convictions were handed down regarding sex parties held at the hotel. And most recently, its rampant building code violations forced the hotel to close in 2007, and have since made it the subject of considerable legal wrangling, as the city of Lincolnwood moves to have it demolished.
In the meantime, the Purple Hotel has gone downhill, fast. The pool courtyard is choked by weeds growing six feet tall. Windows are broken. Doors are kicked open. Carpets are torn out. The interior partitions are rotting, and mold is reportedly all over the place.
The hotel does have some architectural value, as Lee Bay recently pointed out. The exposed structure gives it a nice rhythm, and those massive windows on the guest rooms just don’t get done anymore. A few elements here and there give it some added 60s funk, not least of which are the titular glazed purple bricks themselves.
To make it work as a hotel, an operator would have to think way beyond the norm. This building, hanging out in the middle of nowhere in terms of public transit, amenities and attractions, is a non-starter as a standard hotel. The only hope, marketing-wise, would be to capitalize on the building’s funky style and swinging history, and go all-out with a completely crazed renovation. Either total Mid Century classic 1960s style – maybe even a 1950s streamline mode – or else a completely contemporary treatment rendered in shades of purple. Purple neon, purple understair lighting, purple translucent backlit panels, curving purple reception desk, an internally glowing purple bar with bottles lining purple-backlit glass shelves.
Is Lincolnwood ready for an over-the-top celebration of its own history? Somehow I doubt it.