Edgewater Beach Apartments: A Past Revisited

As I shopped for apartments this weekend, I couldn’t help but picture myself in my dream apartment building- the famous “pink building” seen from Lake Shore Drive. The pink Edgewater Beach Apartments are planted on Sheridan Road between Foster and Bryn Mawr. To Rogers Park residents, the building stands tall to signal that they’re almost home from busy downtown. Although its address is actually in Edgewater, the Edgewater Beach Apartment building is also a staple for Rogers Park occupants and a historic remnant of North Chicago’s past life.

The Edgewater Beach Apartments opened in December 1927, as a part of the illustrious Edgewater Beach Hotel. The 1920s- inspired structures sat beside the shore of Lake Michigan. The hotel was formed in the shape of a “croix fourche” or forked cross. There were four bisecting wings laid out in an X design, so most rooms had a lake view. Benjamin Marshall designed the Edgewater along with other high class Chicago landmarks, such as The Drake and Blackstone hotels. He styled the Edgewater with  Spanish stucco and a pink exterior, making it easily visible and eminent.

The Edgewater Beach Hotel’s popularity skyrocketed in its first few years. It started with 400 rooms in the first X-shaped building when it was built in 1916, but the complex quickly expanded to include another 600 room building, what we now know as the Edgewater Beach Apartments, in 1922. A three- block beach promenade lined with alluring shops connected the two buildings.

The Edgewater Beach Hotel thrived on its grand quality and celebrity for many years. From the 1920s to 1940s, the Edgewater was one of the most prized places to be. Managers hired big bands to play for parties and guests’ entertainment. The most famous American figures, such as Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Babe Ruth, stayed at the Edgewater. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt appeared at the hotel. The hotel manager was known for booking top names in entertainment, which became a major part of the Edgewater’s appeal. It was a musician’s dream to be booked at the Edgewater. And, staying at the hotel was a guest’s dream. Besides the lakefront set up, the hotel also provided a pool, a radio station, print shop, chocolate factory, a heliport, and a film studio. And to further secure the guests’ happiness, The Edgewater Hotel’s famous green carriages were always prepared to cart guests downtown.

In the 1950s, the Edgewater took a hit. Simply put, it couldn’t keep up with the times. Another influence on the drop of the Edgewater was Chicago’s decision to extend Lake Shore Drive north. Lake Shore Drive cut The Edgewater Beach Hotel from its most attractive feature- the lakefront. From there, the hotel faced a steady decline in popularity. The original owners sold it in the late 1940s. The new owners kept the hotel running until December 1967 when they abruptly shut it down. It was reopened as a dorm for Loyola University’s Rogers Park campus for a short time, but it was eventually demolished in 1970.

Now, The Edgewater Beach Apartments is the last structure standing on the original property. The 20-story apartment building has landed a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. It houses 300 lavish apartments with many accommodations for its residents. Accommodations include:

  • 60-foot indoor pool
  • Party space
  • Weight and exercise rooms
  • Library
  • Craft room
  • 2-acre garden
  • Gazebo
  • Shops

They also offer a floor of guest apartments for rent. Residents view the lake, downtown Chicago, and the city’s northwest side from their windows. The Edgewater Beach Apartments are surrounded by a community of 1920s Art Deco style buildings. The community serves as a reminder of the glamorous life that once took place at the Edgewater.

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