When the Palmers ruled Chicago
We knew Bertha Palmer--aka the Princess of the Prairie--had a fabulous wardrobe. But thanks to a recent documentary and a just-opened mini museum at the Loop hotel she once called home, we’re newly intrigued by the less corseted aspects of the famous socialite’s life.
In the new short film Love Under Fire: The Story of Bertha and Potter Palmer, it’s Bertha’s business acumen that really gets our attention. Who knew that as a widow she single-handedly doubled her husband’s fortune? Or that she convinced Potter to stay and rebuild their empire after the Great Chicago Fire burned down more than 30 of his buildings?
After being captivated by the film’s overview of the Palmers’ glamorous path, you’re ready to explore the Palmer House Hilton’s jewel box of a museum. In the 1,000-square-foot space on the mezzanine level, you’ll find scrapbooks that Palmer made in 1907 chronicling her efforts on behalf of working women displayed alongside gold Haviland china used to serve President Ulysses S. Grant and journals listing performers--including the then-unknown Liberace--who serenaded guests in the Empire Room supper club. (Tickets to the museum are $60 a person and include lunch at Lockwood and a guided tour of the hotel with Ken Price, its resident historian.)
Love Under Fire aired on WTTW earlier this spring and is now available to rent online.
Reserve Palmer House museum visits 24 hours in advance by calling Lockwood restaurant, 17 E. Monroe St.; 312-917-3404 or palmerhousehiltonhotel.com