allerton hotel–unlikely modern prototype

Allerton Hotel Chicago Illinois

The Allerton is a fairly typical 1920s hotel. Designed and built in 1923-24 by Murgatroyd and Ogden, it’s an ersatz combination of pyramidal massing, scooped out ventilation courts, and a vaguely Moorish theme, a landmark on Michigan Avenue mostly for its signage, which announces not only the hotel but also the fetchingly named Tip-Top-Tap, its rooftop bar.

Eminently forgettable as a piece of architecture, except…

PACE Architects’ principal, Charlie Genther, recalled that on the early Herbert Greenwald/Metropolitan Structures projects, Mies was constantly pushing to have floor-to-ceiling windows, newly enabled by the 1950 building code (about which, much more here…) Legal though that may have been, Greenwald had trouble convincing lenders that tenants wouldn’t find the vertiginous lack of solid walls at the edges of their floor plates terrifying.

There was one convenient prototype, just blocks from 860-880 Lake Shore Drive, though. The Tip-Top-Tap, which relied on its panoramic views to draw customers for “after-theater rendezvous” and “midnight chats.” The romance of the city, seen from above, was enhanced by the largest possible windows, which–sure enough–are floor-to-ceiling:

Tip Top Tap - Allerton Hotel Chicago, IL

Greenwald apparently used the bar first as a test case, and then–at least according to oft-repeated anecdotes–as proof that the lack of a spandrel wall wouldn’t disturb potential tenants. Judging from the Eames chairs, that view is probably contemporary with Greenwald’s excursions there–the DCW came out in 1946. The planters and radiator cabinets suggest that this wasn’t quite as easy a sell as the story makes it seem, but here’s a slightly later view, not too much later since the Prudential isn’t peeking out over the Trib’s shoulder:

It’s another story that’s impossible to confirm but too perfect to not be true, and it does suggest a research trip to the Tip-Top-Tap once it’s possible again…

One thought on “allerton hotel–unlikely modern prototype

  1. The Allerton still there.
    The sign for the Tip Top Tap is still there.
    But I remember reading somewhere recently that it’s no longer in operation, and was being reimagined as some kind of restaurant.


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