Thor Equities and Hilton Hotels Corporation announced today that Thor, through an affiliate, has acquired the historic Palmer House Hilton in Chicago from Hilton for $230 million. The legendary property is now expected to undergo a renovation in excess of $100 million. Thor, which specializes in the acquisition and redevelopment of assets in urban settings, will include the creation of an exciting new retail center at the hotel’s base that will strengthen the State Street shopping district and serve the prestigious businesses located in the downtown Loop. Hilton will continue to operate the property under the terms of a long-term management contract.
“The Palmer House Hotel is a welcome addition to Thor’s outstanding portfolio of properties,” said Joseph J. Sitt, CEO of Thor Equities. “This historic site enjoys a reputation as one of America’s grandest and most beloved hotels. We are excited by the opportunity to further improve its stature through a $100 million renovation that will add an exciting new retail wing to the base of the hotel. Through this redevelopment, The Palmer House will remain downtown Chicago’s preferred destination.”
“This extraordinary property has played an important role at Hilton Hotels Corporation ever since Conrad Hilton purchased it back in December of 1945,” said Robert M. La Forgia, senior vice president and chief financial officer, Hilton Hotels Corporation. “The Palmer House Hilton remains one of the world’s leading hotels and that is why we are delighted that our outstanding owner, Thor, is dedicating the resources necessary to complete the renovations that will restore this important property to its legendary grandeur. We are also pleased that Hilton will continue to manage the hotel and be associated with the hotel’s terrific team members, many of whom have worked at the property for decades.”
Among the most famous hotels in the world, the Palmer House was built by wealthy entrepreneur Potter Palmer and opened on September 26, 1871. It burned to the ground thirteen days later in the Great Chicago Fire. Undaunted, Potter Palmer started construction on a new hotel across the street from the former building and reopened it in July 1873, as the first hotel to be equipped with electric lights and telephones in each room. Since that date, over 135 years ago, the landmark hotel has:
—Played host to every American President starting with Ulysses S. Grant through George Bush Senior and Bill Clinton. In 1880, James Garfield was nominated for the presidency by the Republicans at the Palmer House. In 1884, President Grover Cleveland accepted his nomination on the lobby staircase. President Bill Clinton openly conveyed a soft spot in his heart for the Palmer House and made a special trip to the hotel to say farewell at the end of his presidency. His ascent as U.S. commander and chief started there eight years earlier when he made his home and headquarters in the hotel during the Indiana and Illinois primaries.
—The Palmer House was where royalty, world leaders, statesmen and captains of industry giants stayed when visiting Chicago. Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill and Rudyard Kipling were frequent hotel guests during the 19th century.
—A Parliament of the World Religions, the first convening in history of all the religions on the planet, took place in the Palmer House during the World’s Fair of 1893. One hundred years later in 1993, the second such historic convention occurred. Titular heads from every religion—including Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dali Lama—made their home in the Palmer House for one week.
—The 20th century’s greatest show business luminaries from Broadway, Hollywood, radio and television including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong and Maurice Chevalier appeared in the hotel’s legendary Empire Room for over 40 years.