Materials Used:

Rookwood Faience ceramic tiles, terra cotta

General Description:

"When the LaSalle Hotel, designed by Holabird and Roche, opened in 1909, horses and stables still held their own in the streets of the city.  The 22-story-high, 1,000 room hotel was a true steel-framed skyscraper, but the Beaux Arts influence of the 1893 World's Fair still held sway.  The swank LaSalle was built to host presidents - both Taft and Coolidge stayed here - and above and below 11 floors of Chicago School-like brick curtain wall enclosing the tight honeycomb of guest rooms, French Second Empire was chosen as the most appropriate design mode.  A massive Mansard roof capped the building's crown." (From: sure to look at the Kodachromes of the LaSalle Hotel Garage just before it was demolished by developers)

(From: The Architects and the City: Holabird & Roche of Chicago, 1880-1918, Volume 1 By Robert Bruegmann, p. 331)

"Another eating area was the Dutch Room (or German Grill). It was noted for its enormous red brick supports which supported the heavy-beamed and paneled ceilings. The room was furnished with wooden and leather chairs and 
had blue tiled walls and terra cotta tiled floors. It was here that electric grilling started in Chicago." (From: In "The Dutch Room...Several decorations on the walls and in the hood over the grille are in Rookwood tile." (From: Martin Roche, "Recent and Current Work of Holabird & Roche, Chicago" in The New York Architect, Vol. 3, No. 10, October 1909, unpaginated)
"Considered by some to be Chicago's most beautiful hotel dining room, the Palm Room featured an Italian fountain 
after a model by Donatello as its centerpiece. [The Palm Room]... was built of cream-colored stone, Rookwood tile, and gray terra cotta, while featuring high-beamed ceilings." (From: "The tympanums and spandrels in the arch decorations against the walls are filled with designs of fruits and flowers, and these are colored in low tones of purple, pinks and greens." (From: Martin Roche, "Recent and Current Work of Holabird & Roche, Chicago" in The New York Architect, Vol. 3, No. 10, October 1909, unpaginated)

Year Created:

c. 1909

Does Installation Still Exist?


If Not, What Happened?

"On June 5, 1946 a carelessly tossed cigarette ignited a fire in the pit of the Number Five elevator shaft of the hotel. Within minutes, the building, which was essentially a “fire trap”, was burning out of control. The flames shot upwards through the elevator shaft and sent fire along the ceiling from the north elevator to the mezzanine. The flames then spread further up, to the seventh floor, where they stopped. Deadly smoke filled the hallways though, reaching the top floor. Many of the guests, thinking that cries of “fire” were a prank, remained in their rooms. They ended up suffocating from the thick smoke.

As the fire spread, escape routes were cut off and desperate guests threw SOS notes to the street below, begging for rescue that never came. In those days, fire ladders only extended to the eight floor, making rescue impossible. Many of the guests hurled luggage from their windows and into the streets below, while others took the fatal plunge themselves.

In the end, the fire could be blamed on the owners themselves, who had shown a shocking lack of interest in safety. As early as 1927, they had been warned about the number of combustible draperies in the building, but failed to heed the warnings. Even worse, there were no instructions in the rooms as to where guests should go in the event of a fire.

Amazingly though, the hotel later re-opened, although it was demolished in 1976 and [an] office building now stands in its place."


Location of Installation:

At the corner of Madison and LaSalle Streets.

Additional Information, Websites, Citations:

See also "The Use of Tile in the Interior Finish and Decoration of Hotels" by William Hagerman Graves in The Architectural Review, Vol. 2, No. 4, April 1913, pp. 46, 88-89. (Scroll down to, and click on the pdf "file") and Martin Roche, "Recent and Current Work of Holabird & Roche, Chicago" in The New York Architect, Vol. 3, No. 10, October 1909.

Submitted by and Year:

Submitted by Michael Padwee (tileback101"at"; July 2011

(From The Brickbuilder, Vol. XX, No. 1, January 1911, p. 18)

A Rookwood ad from The Mantel Tile and Grate Monthly, Vol. IV, No. 7, January 1910, p. 48 shows the tile at right and another tile of a cherub pressing grapes, which were inserted in brick piers in the German Room in the LaSalle Hotel.
German Grill Room

(Photo courtesy of Michael Kahn)

A large Rookwood Faience tile found, and sold, when the LaSalle Hotel was being torn down in 1976. This tile "...weighs just over 40 pounds. It is 20 inches high and 17 ½ inches wide and is 2 inches thick at the border. The front is a cherub in relief in a grape arbor. The back is marked “Rookwood Faience” and what appears to be the number 1561. ...It’s believed the installation in the grill consisted of a series of these larger tiles with each tile depicting a cherub in the act of making wine."
(From: "A Rare Rookwood Tile", The story of this tile and a short video may be accessed at this URL which is on the website of Van Briggle Pottery: Ceramics, History, Marks, Pricing)