Palmolive Building

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919 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL

Palmolive Building

Palmolive stands historically proud among its towering neighbors
Building Information
Developer Holabird & Root LLC
Architect Holabird & Root LLC
Management Company Holabird & Root LLC
Number of Units 90
Number of Floors 37
Year Built 1927
Construction Method Steel
Type of Roof Concrete
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919 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL, United States
Distance to Public Transit Less than one block
Region Chicago
Municipality Chicago
Zoning PD 816
Title of Land Condominium



First issue of Playboy Magazine, December 1953. It is the only issue that doesn't have a bunny on the cover.

Palmolive Building was originally home to the Colgate-Palmoil-Peet Corporation, which is a company still currently in business providing international healthcare, household and professional products.

The first Playboy club was established on the ground floor of the Palmolive Building on February 29th, 1960. It became extremely popular extremely quickly, and had more than 132,000 guests over first three months, making it the busiest club in the world. The club has a Living Room, Playmate Bar, a Dining Room, and Club Room. Members were served food and drinks by the Playboy Bunny girls. In order to get into the club, you needed a Rabbit-headed metal Playboy key, which had to be presented to the Door Bunny. Only 21% of the key holders ever actually went to the club.

From 1967 to 1990, Playboy took over the entire tower as its first magazine headquarters. During their ownership, PLAYBOY was spelled out on either side of the building is nine foot tall illuminated letters. After purchasing the building, the success of the company continued to grow. In 1969, the Big Bunny, Playboy's jet, was delivered to the headquarters. The company went public in 1971, and peaked in 1972 selling more than 7 million copies of one issue. Growth to countries such as Germany and Japan, occurred over this period. They also became the first national magazine to launch its own website in 1994.[1]

Many famous ladies were featured on the magazine covers between 1967 and 1990, some of which being: Barbra Streisand, Pamela Sue Martin, Dolly Parton, Farrah Fawcett, Burt Reynolds, Steve Martin, Barbara Bach, Bernadette Peters, Kathleen Turner, Shannon Tweed, Joan Collins, Goldie Hawn, Bo Derek, Madonna, Janet Jones, Cindy Crawford, Marilyn Monroe and Pamela Anderson.[2]

The building was renamed back to the Palmolive building during the condominium conversion in 2002. When completed, the suites were selling for an averages of $2 million. It was the interesting and setback surfaces accented by the moonlight that has drawn in so much interest and gained this art deco building three very different occupants, and a very fascinating history.[3]


Artist's painting of the Great Chicago Fire
The John Hancock Center
Bike and Jogging paths bordering Lake Michigan

Streeterville is North of Cook County and the Chicago River. Originally, the East end was populated with upscale retail, residential and university uses near the Navy Pier. At the end of the 1960s, with the construction of Lake Point Tower, many of the area was taken over by residential complexes.

Landmarks in the area include the East Lake Shore Drive Historic District, the Old Chicago Water Tower District, and the Michigan-Wacker Historic District.

The Water Tower District, contains the only public buildings that survived the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. This fire burned from October 8th to October 10th, killing hundreds and blazing over 3.3 square miles of land. Initially, the cause of the fire was said to have been a cow kicking a lantern over in a barn, but later it was reported that the farmer made it up, the barn was the first building to be destroyed, but the cause couldn't be determined. There are many conspiracy theories revolving around the cause of the fire.[4]

Famous buildings in the area are the John Hancock Center, Olympic Center, One Magnificent Mile, Chicago Place, River East Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Ritz-Carlton Residences hotel, and Elysees Condominiums.[5]

Some amenities within the community are the Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Feinberg School of Medicine, Bloomingdale's, and restaurants including: Volare, Coco Pazzo Cafe, Rosebud Steakhouse and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.[6]

There is also direct access to Lake Michigan's bike and jogging paths. The trails cover 18 miles, mostly right along the lake side. They are two-lane, paved trails, proving the safest possible way for people to commute, or just enjoy an evening walk.[7]

Within the building is Wells High School. Convenient places residents can walk to are The Grill On the Alley restaurant, Expression by Lavazza coffee, and Swan Retail Inc. groceries.[8] [9]


Historical image of Palmolive Spire

The original construction of the building took place between 1927 to 1929. The plan was to have the building done in two stages, but in 1928 Palmolive merged with Colgate Corporation and the space demands were increased so the entire building was done without delay.

Palmolive is a steel structure supported by a caisson foundation system. This foundation is necessary due to the building's proximity to the water, making the supporting soils weaker due to the high water table. The exterior facade is an applied masonry system with light brown limestone cladding.[10]

A 97 foot spire was added in 1930 and is featured on the flat roof, bringing the building height to 565 feet. The spire is known as the Lindberg Beacon - after Charles Lindbergh, an American aviator author, and inventor - and it was once one of Chicago's most visible landmarks. It had 2,000,000,000 candlepower and ran off 18,000 watts. The beacon could be seen by planes 225 miles away, but since surrounding structures have been constructed, it hasn't been turned on since 1981.[11]

In 2002, the renovation to condominiums was started. The entire renovation project cost $135 million and was developed by Draper and Kramer Inc..

After construction was completed, Draper and Kramer was sued by the Contractor, Pepper Construction Co. A pension fund sued to collect $140 million from Draper and Kramer. The Washington-based National Electrical Benefit Fund claimed that the developers didn't pay a $58 million loan, and accumulated an $80.6 million interest. What was suspicious, was that during this time all but two of the Palmolive Building suits had been sold, so Draper and Kramer should have had the money to pay off the contractor. After a long arbitration period, Pepper Construction retrieved $34.8 million in 2010.[12]

Alessandrs Branca, an Italian interior designer, worked on the Palmolive Building. The suites that she had done were sold among the most expensive suites. Her designs are classical and detailed, with lots of use of parallel lines and patterns.[13]

Layout and Features

Silver Lobby hallway leading to exit
Silver Lobby lounge

The entrance of the Palmolive building immediately creates an impression. Over the glass and nickel doors, is a nickel canopy that has never been replicated on any other building. The lobby itself is known as the Silver Lobby. Up against the walnut paneled walls is a grand fireplace warming the adjacent lounge where guests can await entrance the the Beacon Club.[14]

All the suites have individually designed interiors, giving buyers a lot of selection. There are features that every room does reflect, some of which being high ceilings, crown mouldings, and hardwood floors.[15]

Floor Plans

The floor plans have a lot of variation in size, and number of bedrooms. Many of the rooms are large compared to other condos and there is plenty of storage space.


Amenities include:

  • 24 hour Doorman
  • Exercise Room
  • Health Club
  • Steam Room
  • Party Room
  • Valet Cleaner
  • Beacon Club
  • Heated Harking with 24 hour Security [16]


Palmolive Building Bylaws
Pets Yes
Age No

  • Palmolive Building is pet-friendly
  • There is not an age restriction


Residential Rain Garden

The Palmolive building was built long before the age of Green Buildings and LEED Certification. However, it is still possible for residents to contribute to a healthy environment by performing simple tasks such as turning off lights and watching the amount of water used.

Chicago has a Climate Action Plan that is working towards integrating sustainability practices into the working, living, learning and playing environments of society.

In terms or water, the city understands that Lake Michigan and the Chicago River are the most valuable resources. Preservation of the shores is enforced in order to maintain clean drinking water and beaches. There are multiple ways to control water and protect the environment.

Chicago provides as much information to builders and developers as possible. Bio-infiltration systems are shallow ditches used to absorb storm water run off. This is beneficial because it filters much of the pollutants out of the water before it returns to the lakes and rivers. A rain garden is typically what is used for bio-infiltration. They provide the additional benefit of being aesthetically pleasing and providing food and shelter for birds, butterflies and dragonflies. It is suggested that bio-infiltration be used around parking lots and commercial and residential areas that use swale drainage methods.[17]


The 1972 issue of Playboy, selling over 7 million copies
  • The original elevators were art-deco bas-reliefs of primitive figures in natural settings by sculptor Enrique Alfarez [18]
  • Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Corporation consumes 0.2% of Malaysia's, Indonesias and Thailand's palm oil output. Know to be responsible for deforestation, loss of habitat, and increases greenhouse emissions. It is one of 300 companies responsible for the hazardous waste at the Chemsol federal Superfund site in New Jersey. The company now has a LEED Silver certified plant in Tennessee, being the first of its kind in the United States. This plant produces Colgate Total toothpaste. [19]
  • At the beginning of the 20th century, Palmolive, containing Palm oil and Olive oil, became the world's best-selling soap.
  • Vince Vaughn lived in the building, he paid 12 million for the top three levels of the building, making it the most expensive condo sale in Chicago history at the time. He bput it up for sale originally as 24.7 million. [20]
  • Playboy was founded in Chicago by Hugh Hefner, funded in part by a $1,000 loan from his mother.
  • The best selling copy of Playboy was November 1972, selling 7,161,561 copies.
  • Other potential names for Playboy were "Top Hat" "Gentleman" "Sir" "Satyr" "Pan" and "Bachelor".
  • It was rumored that the stars printed around the "P" on the covers between 1955-1979 indicated the rating of how attractive the girl was, the number of times Hefner slept with her, or a rating of how good she was in bed. In reality, the stars represented the domestic or international advertising region for the printing.[21]
  • Hugh Hefner eats a bowl of chicken noodle soup almost every single day.
  • When Hugh Hefner dies, he is to be buried next to Marilyn Monroe.
  • The first issue of Playboy, featuring Marilyn Monroe, was undated because Hefner didnt know if they would print another. 54,175 copies were sold at 50 cents each.
  • The first person interviewed for Playboy was Miles Davis.
  • A bunny was chosen as the logo because of its "humorous sexual connotation."
  • Pamela Anderson had been on the Playboy cover 12 times, which is more than any other bunny.
  • Hefner has over 115 pairs of silk pajamas.
  • The Playboy mansion is the only private home in Los Angeles to have a fire cracker license and a zoo license.
  • There is a secret room hidden in the mansion known as the "Elvis" room because one night in the early 70s, Elvis had spent the night in the room with eight girls.
  • The original name of the magazine was "Stag Party" and the mascot was a buck.
  • As of December 2003 issue, there had been 602 Playmates.
  • In 1982 Hugh Hefner's daughter took over as president of Playboy Enterprises Incorporated.


  1. Time
  2. Wikipedia - Playboy
  3. Emporis
  4. Wikipedia - Great Chicago Fire
  5. Wikipedia - Streeterville
  6. Urban Spoon
  7. Wikipedia - Chicago Lakefront Trail
  8. Blockstopper
  9. Walk Score
  10. Emporis
  11. Glass Steel and Stone
  12. Chicago Real Estate Daily
  13. Chicago Curbed
  14. DK Condo
  15. See Chicago Real Estate
  16. See Chicago Real Estate
  17. City of Chicago
  18. Emporis
  19. Wikipedia - Colgate-Palmolive
  20. Chicago Curbed
  21. Wikipedia - Playboy

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