Since its grand debut on December 31, 1920, the iconic Drake Hotel has welcomed the world’s most glamorous guests to Michigan Avenue.
Diana, Princess of Wales— pictured here arriving at The Drake Hotel to begin her three-day visit to the US in June 1996—is among the notable personages to have stayed at the legendary Chicago landmark during its 95-year history.
It’s the place where COQ D'OR bartenders served 40-cent whiskey shots to hundreds of Chicagoans the day after Prohibition ended. It’s where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio carved “MM and JD” into the bar at the Cape Cod Room to mark their visit, the initials still intact to this day. It’s even welcomed royalty, hosting the late Diana, Princess of Wales during her monumental three-day visit in June 1996. It’s The Drake. And for 95 years it has been one of the ultimate go-to destinations for Chicago’s elite.
Holding court on the far north end of the Magnificent Mile, the majestic Italian Renaissance–style structure was designed by renowned architect Benjamin Howard Marshall and opened its doors on New Year’s Eve of 1920. Nearly a century later, The Drake continues to dazzle as a sort of time capsule—and that’s no accident, says general manager Damien McArdle. “We’ve intentionally kept the hotel in character all these years,” he says. “We’re fiercely protective of our historic image, as well as the experience.” To wit, McArdle cites employees who’ve been with the hotel for five decades. “They remember waiting on Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra,” he says, citing some of the legions of celebrities who made The Drake a must-stop for any sophisticate visiting Chicago. “It isn’t uncommon for someone to tell us their grandparents were married here in the 1940s, or they had a family member who worked here in the 1960s.” As The Drake raises a glass to its rich 95-year history, McArdle says one thing about the place will never change: “It has been and always will be the place for high society in Chicago.”