The Eitel brothers came to Chicago from Stuttgart, Germany in the early 1890s and after working selling wine and spirits and managing a south-side hotel during Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, built the first Bismarck Hotel in 1894 at its current location.
During World War I, the Bismarck, named after Germany's first Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, changed its name to the "Randolph Hotel." At the war's end, the name was changed back to Bismarck. In 1924, the old building was razed an impressive 22-story building covering nearly an entire city block was erected. Opened in 1926, the "New Bismarck Hotel" offered 600 rooms.
In 1998, the Bismarck underwent a $31-million renovation and was re-opened as the "Hotel Allegro" with two new restaurants, the "Encore" and "312 Chicago," designed to look like an old-time Chicago restaurant.
The Lobby of the Bismarck Hotel was reached by a stairway off the main entrance on Randolph Street. The room featured a decorative plaster ceiling with star-shaped designs, a diamond patterned marble floor, and wood paneled walls with stained glass windows. Traditional Queen Anne furniture including chairs and coffee tables were arranged on area rugs. Seating areas were centered around a row of five fireplaces with large oil paintings above creating ample rest areas for guests.
The Bismarck's entrance had visitors come up a decorative brass railed stairway to the Lobby. A spacious staircase, the charm of which was enhanced by a hand-wrought balustrade, led from the noisy street level to the quiet block-long lobby. Custom brass light fixtures can be seen at the entrance below and at the stair landing.
The Bismarck's Lobby was updated in the late 1930s and early 1940s with a strong Art Deco influence. The custom leather curved booth-style seating had a planter on top with a classic Art Deco-style light fixture above. A large American flag hung over a fireplace demonstrating the Bismarck Hotel's patriotism during World War II.
The original Bismarck Hotel (1894-1924) was known for its restaurants including the Main Restaurant and Bar.
The restaurant has an exposed wood-beamed ceiling, green marble columns, simple tables with wood chairs, globe light fixtures hanging from the ceiling and light sconces on the pillars. Numerous coat and hat hooks are available for the popular bowler-style hats of the time.
The bar included a mural of medieval weapons with ornamental wood paneling, mirrors and a large clock above. A large ceramic beer stein sits by the clock.
The Winter Garden and Bauernstube was another Bismarck Hotel restaurant.
The room featured a facade of beam and stucco building looking like a Swiss hunting lodge. A large mural depicted a European castle in the mountains. Waiters in tuxedos served the well-dressed customers.
The Bismarck's Ladies Cafe and Restaurant offered a formal dining room for hotel visitors. Large archways opened to a room with murals and painted ceiling. Large hanging brass candelabras provided the lighting. The entry was decorated in Victorian dark green wallpaper and flowers. A sign at the entryway advertised "Pschorr Brau Munich" beer.