Your Home Away from Home: Illinois Hotel building
Springfield, Illinois, has a rich history in its hospitality industry. Over the years, several notable hotels have graced the city's streets, each leaving its mark on the local landscape. On the corner of Fourth and Washington is a building that has close ties to Abraham Lincoln and the hotel industry in Springfield, Illinois. Let's delve into the chronology of this fascinating building and the establishments that contributed to its significance in shaping Springfield's cultural heritage.
The City Hotel Years (1840-1855)
In 1840, Joel Johnson opened the City Hotel1 at the Washington and Fourth Streets intersection. This establishment quickly gained attention, as evidenced by the first newspaper advertisement in the Illinois State Journal on July 24, 1840. The City Hotel boasted a good stable, emphasizing the importance of accommodating travelers' horses. In 1842, Johnson expanded the hotel by adding a large addition, offering more boarding options.
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In 1844, Johnson introduced a bathing house at the City Hotel, hoping to attract visitors who sought leisure and relaxation. However, a significant setback occurred in 1847 when the original City Hotel burned down.2 Undeterred, Johnson erected a new building for the hotel later that same year. By 1854, he made substantial additions, resulting in a four-story structure with a dining hall and 70 rooms.
Chenery House (1855-1877)
With Springfield becoming the capital of Illinois in 1837, Elijah Iles constructed a hotel known as the American House on the southeast corner of Adams and Sixth Streets. From 1852 to 1855, William D. Chenery and his son, John William, managed the American House. Subsequently, they purchased Johnson's City Hotel, added extra stories, and renamed it the Chenery House. Although information about the Chenery House is limited, it remained a prominent establishment during its operation.3
Hotel Palace (1877-1912)
Around 1888, the Hotel Palace emerged as a popular destination on Fourth Street. The street-level floor hosted various businesses, including the Palace Bar, George Ritter's tonsorial parlor, and N.J. Mellin's tailor shop. Additionally, it featured a French restaurant and several establishments known for quenching thirst. The Hotel Palace remained a bustling hub, serving locals and visitors alike until 1912.
Illinois Hotel (1905-1948)
Following the sale of the Chenery House, the building was renamed the Illinois Hotel. In 1904, plans were announced to construct a new hotel at the intersection of Fourth and Washington Streets.4 The Illinois Hotel opened its doors for business in 1905, boasting 71 rooms initially. It provided both permanent and transient accommodations, featuring a modern fine popular priced café—a rarity at the time. Over the years, the hotel expanded, adding more rooms and luxurious suites with private bathrooms.
In the 1930s, the Dineen family assumed management of the Illinois Hotel, ensuring its continued success. Brothers Bob, James, and Lawrence Dineen worked together to operate the venture, offering guests a pleasant and comfortable stay. However, in 1947, the hotel underwent a significant transformation when it was sold to local developer William Gingold. The building was converted into offices and modern new stores, marking the end of an era for the Illinois Hotel.
Springfield's hotels have played a crucial role in the city's history, serving as meeting places for locals and providing accommodation for travelers. From Joel Johnson's City Hotel to the Chenery House, Hotel Palace, and finally, the Illinois Hotel, these establishments have witnessed the growth and evolution of Springfield. Each era brought new developments and amenities, reflecting the changing needs and tastes of the community. While these hotels may no longer grace the city's streets, their legacy lives on, reminding us of the hospitality and charm that defined Springfield's past.
Illinois State Journal newspaper advertisement dated July 24, 1840.
Illinois State Journal newspaper article dated January 28, 1847.
Daily Illinois State Register, 2/14/1945.
Daily Illinois State Register dated July 27, 1904.