Hotel History

Nobody Asked Me, But...No. 168 - By Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Hotel History: Hotel Monaco, Chicago, Illinois

The Hotel Monaco which opened in 1999 was originally built as a hat factory for the D.B. Fisk & Company in 1912. Daniel Brainard Fisk was born in Upton, Ma. in 1817 and came to Chicago in 1853 where he developed the largest wholesale millinery business in the U.S. After the original Fisk building burned to the ground in the Chicago Fire of 1877, D.B. Fisk moved to a six-story building on the site where the Marshall Field Annex Building is now located. When Marshall Field wanted to construct the present Annex, they built the 13-story D.B. Fisk building at South Wacker Drive and Wabash Avenue in 1912. The architect was George L. Harvey who designed the Mt. Sinai Synagogue (now the Community Bible Fellowship), the Goulden Chapel addition to the Grace Episcopal Church, the Desmond Theater, Knights of the Maccabees, White's Art Hall and provided supervision of the Carnegie Library and the Michigan National Bank.

Hotel Monaco, Chicago

“Fiskhats” were manufactured and marketed from this D.B. Fisk & Company building until 1958 when it was sold to the Oxford House organization. Oxford House runs group homes for recovering alcoholics and substance abusers. In its simplest form, an Oxford House provides a democratically operated, self-supporting and drug free home. By 2010, the total number of Oxford Houses increased to 1,458 with a total of 11,392 Oxford Recovery Beds. In 1998, Kimpton acquired the D.B. Fisk building from Oxford House and converted it into the hip and quirky Hotel Monaco. After a $3 million guestroom renovation in 2011, the Monaco provides amenities that are unique and one-of-a-kind. Here's how Kimpton's publicity department describes the renovation:

For the room refresh, renowned interior designer Susan Caruso blends a bold, yet modern flair, including a collection of objects that nod to the world traveler. A modernized steamer trunk nightstand in rich earth tones displays a red Moroccan lamp…. Cream and gridlines of gold set off the turquoise bed throw and skirting, while refreshing blue and green shapes dance across a festive boudoir pillow.

Monaco Chicago is home to the Tranquility Suite, a lavish two-room suite which encourages unreserved relaxation with its peaceful design, soothing textures, serene colors, and restful amenities such as in-room massage rollers, sound machines, sleep masks and towel warmers. 

A French deco-inspired look contributes to this hotel's travel theme, as do the rooms named for international destinations such as Tokyo and Paris. The hotel is pet-friendly and will even supply your room a pet goldfish-in-a-bowl upon request. Round starburst dressing mirrors are a unique touch in the brightly colored guestrooms, where turndown is accompanied by such unusual amenities as lottery tickets or Pixy Stix candy.

*excerpted from “Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi”

About Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2015 and the 2014 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of hotel history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is a well-known consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, providing asset management and hotel franchising consultation. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. More than 275 articles on various hotel subjects have been posted in hotel magazines and on the Hotel-Online, BlueMauMau, HotelNewsResource and eTurboNews websites. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (“Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry” and “Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi”). A third hotel book (“Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York”) was called "passionate and informative" by the New York Times. His fourth hotel book was described by the New York Times: “Nostalgia for the City’s caravansaries will be kindled by Stanley Turkel’s... fact-filled... “Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt and Oscar of the Waldorf”.

All of these books can be ordered from the publisher by visiting

Stanley Turkel, CMHS

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