LET'S GO FIRST CLASS across America: Part 5

Worn out yet jumping from one location to the next all in the hopes of getting some first class treatment?

Today, Chicago.

Now, don't go unpacking because you might not want to stay here.

Click on either image to see it larger.
The Hotel Sherman was one of the city's premier hotels and a leading night-life venue during much of the early twentieth century. The hotel's origins, however, date back to 1837. In that year, Francis C. Sherman, a three-time mayor of Chicago and father of the legendary Civil War general, opened the City Hotel on the north side of Randolph Street between Clark and LaSalle. The hotel, renamed the Sherman House in 1844, measured a mere 18 by 84 feet. (SOURCE:Chicago Urban History)

Francis Cornwall Sherman (September 18, 1805 – November 7, 1870; buried in Graceland Cemetery) served as Mayor of Chicago, Illinois three terms (1841–1842, 1862–1865) for the Democratic Party.

Sherman arrived in Chicago in April 1834 from Newtown, Connecticut. He was a brick manufacturer and made the bricks for Archibald Clybourne's mansion. In July 1835, he was elected a village trustee. In 1837, he opened the City Hotel, later the Sherman House. He continued to work as a contractor and builder, eventually serving as mayor of Chicago three times.

His son, Francis Trowbridge Sherman, was a brigadier general in the Union Army during the Civil War. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)

The venerable Sherman House endured many changes over the years, not the least of which was the great fire of 1871, when the hotel burned to the ground alongside the rest of downtown. Quickly rebuilt, the new structure was larger and more elaborately decorated than its predecessor. By the turn of the century, however, the Sherman House began to lose its luster and popularity. Gradually, it gained the reputation as the "deadest hotel" in town.

Not until the hotel was acquired by entrepreneur Joseph Beifeld was its decline reversed. Beifeld, a Jewish Hungarian immigrant, dramatically improved the hotel's image with the help of first-class customer service and top-flight entertainment in the evenings. By 1904, the new and improved Hotel Sherman and its famed restaurant, the College Inn, were the talk of the town, increasingly frequented by local celebrities and members of high society.

Buoyed by the turnaround, Beifeld invested several million dollars in new construction at the hotel. In 1911, the main hotel structure was rebuilt, followed by an additional $7 million, twenty-three-story expansion in 1925. By the end of the 1920s, the Hotel Sherman contained 1600 guest rooms, a banquet hall seating 2500, and stunning new marble lobby. Local newspapers reported that the new facilities made the Sherman the largest hotel west of New York City.

The Hotel Sherman remained one of Chicago's premier night spots through the 1910s and 1920s, attracting celebrities, tourists, and members of high society. It was during this period that the College Inn restaurant, with the help of band leader Isham Jones, became a notable jazz venue. Jones broke with the genteel tradition of violin-based hotel performance when he replaced many of his orchestra's waltz-oriented numbers with new, jazz-inspired tunes. Though there were critics of the change, most of the restaurant's patrons applauded the livelier arrangements and the freer dance styles they encouraged.

After the Second World War, the Sherman retained its position as one of the city's leading hotels, popular among visiting businessmen and conventioneers. In time, however, the hotel began to show its age and had an increasingly difficult time competing with newer hotels along Michigan Avenue and in the suburbs. In January 1973, the hotel closed. At the time, it was the oldest hotel in continuous operation in the state of Illinois. There were plans to remodel the building into a fashion mart and build a replacement hotel at the corner of Randolph and LaSalle, but nothing came of them. In 1980, the hotel was demolished. Its site is now occupied by the Thompson Center, formerly known as the State of Illinois Center. (SOURCE: Chicago Urban History)

"Frank W. Bering, night clerk at the Sherman House," 29 Sept. 1903

"Sherman House Site," 1909 (SOURCE: Library of Congress)

"Top of the Sherman Hotel building during construction," 1909

"Sherman House hotel, exterior sculpture," 4 March 1911

So what sort of things went on at the Hotel Sherman?
On October 20, 1926 John O'Berta and Joseph "Polack Joe" Saltis call a peace conference at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago in an attempt to broker a ceasefire among Chicago's major bootleggers. With the establishment of Madison Street dividing the Chicago Outfit and the North Side Gang territories, the two sides agree to peace. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
So who was Joseph Saltis?
Joseph "Polack Joe" Saltis [Soltis] (died 1947) was an early Prohibition gangster who, who with Frank McErlane, controlled bootlegging in the Southwest Side of Chicago, Illinois.

Originally a Polish saloon owner from Joliet, Illinois, Saltis moved to Chicago with the announcement of the Volstead Act in 1920. With the assistance of John "Dingbat" O'Berta, a candidate for the Illinois State Senate, began supplying illegal alcohol to Chicago's speakeasies and by 1925 Saltis effectively controlled the Southwest Side. Saltis, by now extremely wealthy from bootlegging, purchased a residence in Eagle River, Wisconsin which, employing over half of the town's sixty citizens, later had the town named Saltisville in the town's general election.

During this time, Saltis remained on good terms with his South Side neighbor Al Capone, whose Chicago Outfit began dominating Chicago's bootlegging soon after his arrival in the early 1920s. Indeed, by the mid-1920s, only the Saltis-McErlane organization remained independent from the eight satellite gangs under Capone's control. However, soon becoming entrenched in territory disputes with many of Capone's satellite gangs, Saltis began talks for a secret alliance with Capone rival Earl "Hymie" Weiss's North Side Gang. Throughout the next year, Saltis began preparing for war as smaller rivals such as the Southside O'Donnell's (for which an attempt would be made on his life in late-1925) and sometimes allied Sheldon Gang began to threaten Saltis's hold on the Southwest Side as soon gunmen such as Frank "Lefty" Koncil, Charlie "Big Hayes" Hubacek, and Frank McErlane joined Saltis's ranks.

On August 6, 1926, Sheldon Gang member John "Mitters" Foley was killed by Frank Koncil while in Saltis's territory. While Koncil, along with O'Berta and Saltis, were arrested and charged with murder O'Berta's considerable political influence (as well as assistance from Weiss) was able to get the case dropped on November 9.

The following year O'Berta, with Saltis, managed to arrange a conference at the Hotel Sherman on October 20, which included Al Capone, George "Bugs" Moran, Vincent "The Schemer" Drucci, Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik, Ralph Sheldon, William Skidmore, Maxie Eisen, Jack Zuta, and Christian P. "Barney" Bertsche, and managed to agree on a general ceasefire of the various gang wars, specifically between the Chicago Outfit and the North Side Gang, as well as the gang war between Saltis-McErlane and the Sheldon Gang. The ceasefire lasted a little over two months before war broke out again when members of Saltis-McErlane gang killed Sheldon Gang member Hillary Clements on December 30. As the gang war continued between Saltis and the Sheldon Gang over the Southwest Side, Al Capone had begun to move in on Saltis's territory, as the war was beginning to turn in favor of the Sheldon Gang. When Koncil and Hubacek were lured into an ambush and killed on March 11, 1927, Saltis appealed to Capone to negotiate peace between the Sheldon Gang in exchange for a cut of Saltis's profits. By the end of the gang war, however, Saltis's gang began to disintegrate as Frank McErlane left Saltis in late 1929 over disagreements over McErlane's share. When O'Berta and his chauffeur, Sam Malaga, disappeared on March 25, 1930, allegedly taken for a "one way ride", O'Berta was later found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. With his associates gone and his organization all but destroyed, Saltis quickly retired to his home in Barker Lake, Wisconsin.

Joe Saltis later died at age 53 from complications of a stomach ulcer in Chicago's Cook County Hospital in 1947. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
So what we're sayin' here is that they had some foist class clientele. Yeah, sure, them guys were tough, but you was just a customer. They ain't gonna mess with youse, right? They wouldn't, say, slip you no mickey would they?
"Drugs to the Non-Tippers Arrested Chicago Waiters Confess Poisoning Hotel Guests. Detective Seize Large Quantity", The Kansas City Times: 3, June 23, 1918 "Evidence against the waiters was obtained by a detective agency employed by the Hotel Sherman after several guests had become ill suspiciously...Large quantities were found in a drawer behind the bar at the waiters' union headquarters. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
Okay, some straight up legit stuff happened there too:
On April 11, 1914 Alpha Rho Chi, a professional architecture fraternity, is founded in the Hotel Sherman in Chicago.

In February 1939, the Chicagoland Glider Council, sponsored a Winter Get-Together and Soaring Forum at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago, with Frankfort’s Stan Corcoran and Ted Bellak as the guest speakers. About 200 pilots attended.
Like I said, you might not want to stay here anymore. In fact, I think we best get out of town before weez be wearin' our noses on the side of our head. Youse know what I mean?

Tomorrow: bring your own linens


  1. Oh, I dunno, this sounds like my kinda place. Never a dull moment anyway.

  2. polack joe saltis was a big beer baron. dingbat had the political influence.