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The Blackstone Hotel

The Blackstone Hotel is a historic 290-foot 21-story hotel located on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Balbo Drive in the Michigan Boulevard Historic District in the Loop community area of Chicago, Illinois. The Blackstone is famous for hosting celebrity guests, including numerous U. S. presidents, for which it was known as the "Hotel of Presidents" for much of the 20th century, for contributing the term "smoke-filled room" to political parlance. The hotel and the adjacent Blackstone Theatre were built on the site of Timothy Blackstone's mansion by John and Tracy Drake, sons of Blackstone's former business partner, the hotel magnate John Drake. John and Tracy Drake developed the Drake Hotel, their father had been a director of Blackstone's Alton Railroad. At the time of the opening, the hotel and theatre were located at the southern edge of the Chicago Theatre District at Michigan Avenue and Hubbard Court; the hotel was named for Timothy Blackstone, a notable Chicago business executive and politician, who served as the founding president of the Union Stock Yards, president of the Chicago and Alton Railroad, mayor of La Salle, Illinois.

It was designed by Marshall and Fox. The original construction was capitalized at $1.5 million, including a $600,000 to $750,000 bond issue by the Drake Hotel Company. In the 1920s, the Drake Hotel Company undertook some financing arrangements which included extending their debt to construct the Drake Hotel, they used the Blackstone Hotel as collateral for one loan in 1927. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 rippled into the hotel industry, leaving the Chicago Title and Trust Company with 30 Chicago hotels in receivership and causing the Drakes to default in 1932; the hotel ended up belonging to Metropolitan Life. MetLife leased the Blackstone to hotelier Arnold Kirkeby in 1936, Kirkeby bought the hotel outright in 1941. Kirkeby sold the hotel to Sheraton Hotels in 1954 and it was renamed the Sheraton-Blackstone Hotel; the hotel endured troubles in the late 1960s, as the neighborhood surrounding it declined, Sheraton sold the property to local hotelier Mark Friedman on September 12, 1973, for $5 million and the hotel became the Blackstone Hotel again.

In 1995, the Blackstone was sold to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. On May 29, 1998, the Blackstone Hotel was designated as a Chicago Landmark; the hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 8, 1986. It is a historic district contributing property for the Chicago Landmark Historic Michigan Boulevard District; the hotel closed in 2000 after Occupational Safety and Health Administration building inspectors found safety problems during a 1999 inspection. The building's owner, Heaven on Earth Inns Corp, run by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, looked into several options before selling the property to Rubloff, Inc. which in 2001 announced plans to convert the building into condominiums priced as high as $8.5 million. Rubloff's plans were unsuccessful due to financing difficulties and a lackluster market for buyers of Blackstone condominiums. Two rounds of price cuts were not enough to spur interest in the condo opportunities and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's non-profit organization was unable to obtain financing.

The years of neglect following the closing of the hotel took a toll on the building's appearance with both the interior and exterior facade crumbling. In 2005, it was announced that the hotel would undergo a $112 million renovation and acquisition with a planned opening in 2007 in a deal between Marriott International/Renaissance Hotels and Sage Hospitality, a Denver, Colorado-based company; the hotel's restoration process was quite lengthy because of the extensive interior damage. $22 million of the expected $112 million was the cost associated with the acquisition. Sage sought $22 million in tax increment financing from the Chicago Community Development Commission, they were approved for $18 million in tax-increment financing. The final cost of the restoration came to $128 million, of which the city of Chicago provided $13.5 million for street-front improvement, including the restoration and recasting of over 10,000 pieces of decorative terra cotta, federal historical tax credits because the building is a historical landmark.

The Chicago Landmark status necessitated renovation oversight by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Sage had been interested in the property; the newly restored hotel reopened on March 2008, as the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel. Sage uses the Renaissance brand "for hotels that are unique in terms of location, design, or historic values"; the other parties involved in the restoration were local architect Lucien Lagrange and hotel interior design and procurement firm Gettys, for design work. James McHugh Construction Co. was responsible for construction. The engineering firm handling the exterior renovation was Illinois-based Wiss, Elstner Associates, Inc; the restoration resulted in 332 rooms, 12 suites, 13,230 square feet of meeting space. The 21-story hotel is now equipped with a health club, a business center, a street-level cafe with outdoor seating area; as part of the restorations and chandeliers were restored. Many of the details, such as brass fittings, several of the statues and the original chandeliers, had been sold off.

However, Sage was able to repurchase many of them on refabricate many others. The primary historic facades were restored, including the hotel's ornate terra cotta-clad exterior. All the guest-room floors were reconfigured and enlarged; some have described the restoration as "garish". Only two guest rooms w

Stella Hammerstein

Stella Hammerstein was an American actress. She was sometimes billed as Stella Steele. Hammerstein was the daughter of Oscar Hammerstein I and Malvina Jacobi Hammerstein, both of whom opposed her going into show business as a profession. In 1908, she told a New York Times reporter of her father's reaction when, at age 20, she told him that she was going into musical comedy: "Papa without more ado piled me over his knee and applied the hairbrush vigorously." He accepted her desire to be an actress. In 1902, Hammerstein joined the stock theater company headed by Daniel Frohman, she debuted on January 7 of that year in Frills. In 1904, she soon joined an opera company, her stay was cut short when her father ordered her home as a way of breaking up a romantic relationship that she had developed with a magazine publisher. She returned to London in April 1907 to join one of the theatrical companies of George Joseph Edwardes. In 1908, she returned to the United States to perform in George M. Cohan's The Yankee Prince when it had its premiere in Hartford, Connecticut.

Hammerstein's hopes of singing grand opera and becoming a prima donna were dashed when her father's throat specialist told her in 1908 that her vocal cords were "much too weak for great music". Hammerstein's Broadway credits included Everywoman, The American Idea, The Yankee Prince, Winsome Winnie, The Blonde in Black, Notre Dame, Frocks and Frills, she appeared in On the Eve at the Hollis Street Theatre in Boston in 1909. She initiated her vaudeville career in 1912 in The Tyranny of Fate, in Atlantic City; the following year, she co-authored Getting a play for vaudeville. Hammerstein appeared in the films The Ace of Death, Anna Karenina, Social Hypocrites. In September 1919 two months after the death of their father and her sister, Rose Hammerstein Tostevain, became owners of the Hammerstein Amusement Company. A judge of the Supreme Court of the State of New York ruled that the two daughters were the rightful owners of 4,998 shares of the company's total of 5,000 shares of stock; the ownership had been the subject of a legal dispute involving the sisters, Oscar Hammerstein's widow, a trust company with which the shares had been deposited as security for alimony payments to Oscar Hammerstein's first wife.

On October 5, 1912, Hammerstein married Frederick Lionel Chester Keating, an attorney, in Jersey City. They were divorced in March 1920, on April 1, 1920, she married Charles Fyles Pope, vice-president of the International Doll Association. Stella Hammerstein on IMDb