Episode 90b: Purple Reign Redux

Last July, we told the story of the Purple Hotel. Here’s the original story, with an update at the end.

Visual spoiler:


(Credit: Gwen Macsai)

What’s the difference between what the public sees and what an architect sees when they look at a building?

The hotel on the very prominent corner of Touhy and Kilbourn Avenues in Lincolnwood, Illinois used to be the town’s most famous building: The first Hyatt hotel in all of Chicagoland, premiere accommodations, top-notch restaurant. It was swank! Roberta Flack stayed there. Barry Manilow stayed there. Perry Como. Michael Jordon stayed there on his first night in Chicago. Every thirteen-year-old in the area had their bar mitzvah there.

Then, slowly, over time, it became Lincolnwood’s most infamous building. Changed hands, got seedy and run down. It was the home of the Midwest Fetish Fair and Marketplace convention. There were drug-fueled sex parties attended by shady Chicago politicians later convicted of things like extortion. And of course there was the convicted mobster Alan Dorfman, who was gunned down in the parking lot. It’s now dilapidated and empty.

But even if you know nothing about the history, everyone in the area knows this hotel.

Because it’s purple. Really, really purple.

Gwen Macsai grew up nearby and she always thought it was really, really ugly. Lots of people did. To be fair, lots of people didn’t. But everyone has an opinion about it.

But Gwen Macsai, host of Re:sound from the Third Coast International Audio Festival, has a secret about the Purple Hotel.

Gwen talks to the original architect of the Purple Hotel, plus WBEZ architecture critic Lee Bey, developer Jack Weiss, and the new architect, Jackie Koo, who’s looking to bring the Purple Hotel back to its former glory.

Photos of the hotel in its glory days:


(Credit: Courtesy of Jackie Koo)

(Credit: Courtesy of Jackie Koo)

(Credit: Courtesy of Jackie Koo)

(Credit: Courtesy of Jackie Koo)

Photos of the hotel during its less glorious days in 2011:

Swim At Your Own Risk

(Credit: Ken Fager, 2011)

Take a Seat

(Credit: Ken Fager, 2011)

It turns out that it would cost $40 million to renovate the hotel.  So on August 27, 2013, the parking lot of the Purple Hotel was filled with local dignitaries from Lincolnwood, Illinois. Even the mayor was there. The wrecking ball had, at long last, come for the Purple Hotel. And the people were celebrating.


(Credit: Gwen Macsai)

Architect John Macsai was the man of the hour.


(Credit: Gwen Macsai)

John was even given a purple plaque.


I really, really hope Gwen will save me a brick from the demolition site.

Music: “Snow Tip Cap Mountain”- The Octopus Project; “I’m OK”- Tone Traeger; “Walk on the Wild Side”- Si Zentner; “Gonzo”- James Booker; “Big Town”-Laurindo Almeida, The Danzeros; “Ricky Balboa (feat. Mau)”- Dubphonic; “Desafinado”- Antonio Carlos Jobim; “Theme from a Summer Place”-Percy Faith; “Caravan”-Gordon Jenkins; “Male Bonding (The Wrong Man)”- Original Soundtrack Four Rooms; “Stranger on the Shore”-Acker Bilk; “Antes De Medianoche (The Misbehavers)” -Original Soundtrack from Four Rooms; “Mad Men Suite”-David Carbonara; “Swingin’ Safari”-Bert Kaempfert & His Orchestra; “A Beautiful Mine” -Aceyalone and RJD2; “Heights”- OK Ikumi

12 thoughts on “Purple Reign Redux

  1. I’ve lived in w rogers park for 8 years and it’s hard to fathom I won’t be seeing that purple beast on Touhy in a few months.

  2. When I was listening to the show, the picture I had in my mind of this hotel was a lot more disturbing. But after seeing these photos I am little sad to hear it’s being torn down… even tho I’ve never seen it before or probably never see it again! I would have really enjoyed following Ken around as he took those photos.

    And the purple… it’s not bad at all, not nearly as bad as the shade of purple I was imagining.

  3. Couldn’t agree more with last comment. I was imagining some ghastly shade–and the color is actually almost elegant. Wonderful program.

  4. Nice program! I had my bar mitzvah party at the Hyatt (we never called it the purple) and I remember it as very swanky in the 70’s. When I first saw it, the Hyatt was using Japanese iconography as a branding motif and they had a bridge to the lobby over a small koi-filled pond. There were mon, stylized Japanese crests used to denote a family or organization, on the lobby doors and windows. I liked the design and the purple brick–a welcome break from the area’s muted architecture.

    I suppose using the phrase “drug-fueled sex party” in every article about the purple hotel is mandated, but let’s change it up and start using “sex-fueled drug parties”–how would you tell the difference? It became a seedy oasis of ill repute and I remember having some drinks with friends in divey bar and running into a contingent of Japanese rope bondage enthusiasts on leaving–thus completing the full circle.

    • Well, the main focus of the party was sex. Drugs were just the catalyst to lower people’s inhibitions and enable the sex. Thus: drug-fueled sex party.

  5. Because English is my second language so sometimes I couldn’t catch up with Mars. Wouldn’t it be great if this site provide full transcript for each episode?

  6. Gwen Macsai was rude to her father during the interview. She should apologize to him. He seemed like a really nice man, and I would have liked to hear more from him.

  7. I have listened to John Macsai lectures regarding construction economics, he sounds very intelligent Architect … I was surprised and happy to hear that he is the purple hotel’s designer :)

    • I heartily agree with Bob Jones; it’s the reporter’s job to ask the questions and listen to the answers and then edit out the parts she wants to use, not tell him what to say. I was quite put off by her rudeness to her father; I’d much rather hear what he had to say.

  8. Pingback: Podcast Thing | Gwen Macsai

  9. How about a high-res photo of an individual brick? The podcast discusses the bricks extensively, and in these photos you can’t even tell there are bricks.

  10. OK, someone’s gotta say it, and apparently no one else is going to step up:

    That hotel is not purple. It is blue.

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