Purple Reign

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 – premier 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:

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

Swim At Your Own Risk
by Ken Fager
Take a Seat
by Ken Fager



“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

  1. antonio

    What is the flute music playing at the end of the episode? I’ve been looking for this song over 5 years! Please help!

  2. the1andonlydjt

    I heard Gwen Macsai’s story about the Purple Hotel for the first time this afternoon. The Purple Hotel was shocking the first time I saw it. But it grew on me. There is something comforting to me about about the unusual. While listening to the story I was almost moved to tears. I was uncertain of its fate as I hadn’t been in Linclonwood in a few years. I was hoping that it had somehow survived. The comments at the end of the show confirmed that it had not. Great story about a once great hotel.

  3. Brilliant episode again. I love listening to this retired architect in his distinctive Hungarian accent. Have you noticed his name is not mentioned anywhere in the page or the summary?

  4. A C

    I stayed here a few months before it was finally condemned (and a week after the first condemnation hearings, how it made it through I’ll never know). It was a terrible place at that time, but I could still see how it had once been something else, and in a way it’s a shame it couldn’t be restored. (On the other hand, having stayed there at the time I did, I can fully understand why it couldn’t be, it was a wreck.)

    1. Teddi Litman

      It’s kinda sad to hear that they ended up demolishing The Purple Hotel after all. The new development looks kinda boring based on the artist rendering photos. I like the purple in the “glory days” photos.

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