An interview with Nathan Carsten, assistant director of sales and Millennium Knickerbocker.
Question: Can you tell us a little bit of history about the Knickerbocker?
Answer: Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel Chicago, originally named the Davis Hotel after the general manager, opened its doors to anticipating Chicagoans on Monday, May 16, 1927. Rumor has it that when the stock market plummeted and prohibition reigned, Al Capone’s brother Ralph operated a casino and speak-easy on the Penthouse Floor.
Since access needed to be controlled, only one of the hotel’s three passenger elevators was able to reach the top. In 1931, after Allan Hurst purchased the hotel, the Davis was renamed the “Knickerbocker.” In 1970, Hugh Hefner and Playboy Enterprises purchased the Knickerbocker, renaming it the Playboy Towers. During the 80s and 90s, the Knickerbocker changed ownership and management companies several times. When Millennium Hotels and Resorts acquired the hotel in 1999, the flagship property finally returned to the distinguished architecture and timeless ambience reminiscent of the hotel’s early years. Today, after two multimillion dollar renovations, the landmark Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel remains one of the premier destinations in Chicago.
Its interior reflects influences from the hotel’s history translated into a current and modern interpretation. With a substantial commitment to preserving historic integrity for future generations, the landmark property is a member of the Historic Hotels of America brand for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Q: What does the venue have to offer when it comes to corporate meetings?
A: Featuring 18,500 square feet of flexible meeting space, Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel Chicago can accommodate meetings of 10 to 750.
The Crystal Ballroom, one of the most palatial in Chicago, has hosted many prominent events in its rich history and offers a 25-foot-high gilded domed ceiling and balcony and the only illuminated dance floor in Chicago.
Guests at this luxury hotel have access to a dedicated catering or conference planning manager who handles all aspects of the group from preplanning to on-site assistance.
Q: Describe the atmosphere.
A: Being a historic location the atmosphere is very traditional and the sincerity of our staff allows a sense of “being a part of the family.” Our regular guests continually provide us with this feedback.
Q: They say many famous people have stayed at the hotel? Who are some of them?
A: John F. Kennedy as U.S. Senator, Richard Nixon as vice president, The Rolling Stones, Muhammad Ali, Daryl Hannah and Hugh Hefner.
Q: What size groups can meet here?
A: Our largest space is the Crystal Ballroom that is able to comfortably accommodate 300 guests. On the 14th floor, our Towers East and West is able to hold over 100 guests each. This allows for a separate dining space from the meeting as the rooms are adjacent to one another.
Q: What are people in your industry talking about?
A: There is continued discussion over the booking windows for groups. Large meetings are being booked within 60-days.
Q: Tell us about the architecture.
A: Notable architects Rissman & Hirschfield built the gothic-inspired hotel in less than a year.
Q: You just celebrated 86 years, that’s quite an accomplishment! What’s your success?
A: Our success is our team. There are many options in Chicago and what allows us to stand out is our guest service. We have many tenured employees who all have a large heart to serve.
Q: What’s in store for the future? 2013 is going to end on a positive note and we are anticipating the growth to continue into 2014.
Q: What attracts clients here when booking meeting space?
A: Location, location, location. Hosting a meeting at Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel puts guests steps from the beach, Rush Street, Magnificent Mile shopping and some of the best dining in the city.