A new building may go up where the Illiana Hotel once stood. The Times reports that the city has “received a proposal to put up a multiuse building at the site.”
It was 90 years ago this year that the Illiana Hotel opened. Although the building stood at the corner of 119th Street and Atchison Avenue for 89 years, until it was torn down in 2017, it had been empty and the hotel had been closed for years. In fact, today, few Whiting-Robertsdale residents remember what it looked like in its prime. Fortunately, the Whiting-Robertsdale Historical Society has a copy of the program distributed at the Grand Opening of the Illiana on March 19, 1928. Inside that program are four drawings which show what the hotel’s earliest guests saw when they stepped into Whiting’s best hotel. Those drawings accompany this article.
The Grand Opening program also provides a little information about how the hotel came about. “In October 1926,” the program says, “a small group of local men, headed by Judge T. Joseph Sullivan, purchased the site of the present hotel and toward the end of January 1927, procured a lease of forty years for the present building with the syndicate of which the principal holders are the Stamos Brothers, who have operated hotels and restaurants in and around Chicago for the past quarter of a century.” At its opening, the Illiana Hotel had sixty-six rooms, as well as seven stores on its ground floor.
At the grand opening event, speakers included Chamber of Commerce President Francis D. McNamara, Mayor Walter E. Schrage, and Lake Superior Court Judge Claude V. Ridgely. Other speakers were Mrs. Ross Gambril, president of the Whiting Women’s Club; T. Joseph Sullivan, president of the Whiting Hotel Building Corporation; and John Stamos, the lessee of the Illiana Hotel.
Broiled tenderloin steak was served as the main course at the opening dinner. Other items on the menu included spring vegetable soup, buttered California asparagus, young celery hearts, Idaho potatoes, and a deep sea shrimp salad. There was a special layer cake and ice cream for dessert, served with “Illiana Special Coffee,” as well as cigars and mints.