The Edgewater Beach Hotel

If any Chicago hotel could be called legendary, it was the Edgewater Beach Hotel. The name said it all. The hotel was located on the 5300-north block of Sheridan Road, in the heart of Edgewater. And it had its own beach.

Benjamin Marshall, himself a Chicago legend, designed the original 400-room, Spanish-style stucco building in 1916. The hotel was arranged so that most rooms had a view of the lake. In 1922 a second building with 600 more rooms was added.

Edgewater Beach01

Of course, the 1200-foot-long private beach was the hotel’s main attraction. The complex also included a tennis court, pitch-and-putt golf course, gardens, and children’s  playground. A private bus shuttled guests to Marshall Field’s. For awhile the hotel even had a seaplane to fly people downtown.

There was entertainment, too.  Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Xavier Cugat, and other stars of the big band era played the Edgewater Beach. The music was broadcast live over the hotel’s own radio station, WEBH.

Society leaders, presidents, royalty, movie stars, and anyone looking for a special experience–they all came to the Edgewater Beach. The hotel ballroom did a big business in proms and college dances.

Edgewater Beach 1946

One notorious incident spoiled the fun. Because the Edgewater Beach was only two miles from Wrigley Field, it was a convenient place to stay for visiting baseball teams. In 1949 Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus was shot in the hotel by a deranged female fan. I wrote about the shooting on my old WBEZ blog–

The Waitkus shooting didn’t have any lasting effect on business at the Edgewater Beach. But in 1957 Lake Shore Drive was extended to Hollywood Avenue on landfill, cutting the property off from the lake. And as air-conditioning became more accessible, the hotel lost another of its advantages. Management cut costs, and the once-elegant pink palace began to look shabby.

1969--cut off from the lake

1969–cut off from the lake

The downward spiral ended in 1967, when the Edgewater Beach closed. Loyola University converted the building into a dorm, but that didn’t last. In 1970 the hotel was demolished.



5 Responses to “The Edgewater Beach Hotel”

  1. 1 benson February 26, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    John, loved this post. My grandmother was in a CHA senior housing facility on Hollywood during the 90’s, so I got to know this area and can imagine how great it was during it’s hey day.

    It took a little googling, but I found some history on WEBH, too. I guess it spent some time at 810 am and 820 am, moved to 1020 am, before going dark. And its descendant is its former sister station, WEBH-FM, which is now WLIT, (93.9 fm) and formerly WLAK, which appeared on one the busboards in your ‘then and now’ photographs last week.

    • 2 J.R. Schmidt February 26, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      Thanks for the info. I went to at least one dance at the Edgewater Beach when I was in college in the late ’60s, and a friend lived in the building when it was a dorm. But I missed the glory days. I can only imagine, too.

  2. 3 Ralph February 26, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I lived near by in the mid 1960’s and I went by The Edgewater a lot on the way to the beach. I read online that the women who shot Eddie Waitkus just passed away about two years ago here in Chicago. There is a picture of her in the police car in the pictures below.

    Here’s some more pictures of The Edgewater I found online from the Chicago Tribune,

    • 4 J.R. Schmidt February 26, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      Thanks for the comment. As I mentioned in the update to my WBEZ story, Ruth Ann Steinhagen (the shooter) died in December 2012. But she’d lived quietly after her release from prison, and the press didn’t learn of her death until three months afterward.

  3. 5 Wendy Bright March 2, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks for the great post, John! Here’s a colorful clip showing part of a 1947 show at the hotel (at about 5:30):

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: