The Tremont House was a hotel located in Chicago, Illinois. A modern hotel also bears the same name.
The original hotel was built in 1833. It was a three-story wooden structure located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Lake and Dearborn streets. It was lost to a fire in 1839. It took its name from the Boston Tremont House. It was opened by Ira Couch.
The second hotel was built after the loss of the first. It was a three-story structure located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Lake and Dearborn streets. It was lost to a fire ten years after opening.
The third hotel was constructed on the same site as the second hotel. It was a five floor brick structure with 260 rooms, and was designed by John M. Van Osdel. It was a block masonry structure with the finest amenities of the day. The large hotel was originally dubbed "Couch's Folly" by those that expected it to fail. For a time, it was considered the leading hotel in the western United States.
The building was among the largest to be physically raised when Chicago heighted the grade of its streets in the 1850s and 1860s. George Pullman made his reputation as a building raiser before becoming famous for sleeping cars. In 1861, Ely, Smith and Pullman lifted the Tremont House six feet in the air; it was just one of many buildings raised to match the upward shifting street grade during the mid nineteenth century.
During the 1858 United States senatorial race in Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas, who regularly stayed at the hotel while in Chicago, delivered a July 9, 1858 speech that included a rebuke to Abraham Lincoln's House Divided Speech. Lincoln, who was in Chicago to attend an opening session of United States District Court, appeared at the hotel that night to deliver a rebuttal. This, in a sense, was the start of each individual's campaigns for senate.
The hotel served as the Headquarters for the Illinois Republican Party during the 1860 Republican National Convention, held at the nearby Wigwam, as they lobbied for Abraham Lincoln's nomination.
Stephen A. Douglas died at the hotel on June 3, 1861.
In 1865, Mary Lincoln stayed at the hotel for one week following the assassination of her husband. Robert Lincoln and Tad Lincoln stayed with her during that time.
The hotel burned to the ground during the Great Chicago Fire.
During the interim period following the fire, the hotel operated as the "New Tremont House" out of a structure that John Drake had bought at Michigan Avenue and Congress. Drake bought this temporary Hotel as a successful bet that it would escape the fire as the fire was raging across the city.
The fourth hotel was designed by John M. Van Osdel, who had designed the previous third hotel. It opened its doors in 1873. It stood six floors. It was constructed by the estate of Couch, who had himself passed away in 1857. The rebuilt hotel remained along with the Palmer House, Grand Pacific Hotel and the Sherman House as a leading hotel after the Great Chicago Fire. It was built in the commercial palazzo architecture style of the day and claimed to be fireproof.
The building stood until 1937, but the hotel had closed earlier. In 1902, the building was purchased by Northwestern University, and housed its law, dental, and business schools.
The Tremont Chicago Hotel is at 100 East Chestnut Street, between Michigan Avenue on the Magnificent Mile and Rush Street. The hotel housed the Chicago location of Mike Ditka's restaurant, which closed in 2020. This block of Chestnut is also known as Mike Ditka Way.