Romance Buried at Chicago's Landmark Hotel

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Romance Buried at Chicago's Landmark Hotel
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Former site of the Eighth Street Theater in Chicago. (Photo courtesy of Janoa Taylor.)

Finding romance in Chicago can be tough at times, but once upon a time, a theater that is now connected to a Chicago landmark was home to the city's most influential architect's love story. Frank Lloyd Wright is known for being a great architect but also for being a womanizer. Even through his scandalous ways, though, he found true love in what is now part of Chicago's most well-known hotels.

Wright's Many Relationships

Chicago celebrity Frank Lloyd Wright fell in love with Olgivanna (Olga) Milanoff Hinzenburg in the way some people dream of -- at first sight.

Wright had six children with his first wife, Catherine Tobin, when he ran off with his married mistress, Martha (Mamah) Borthwick Cheney, whom he loved until her violent death.

In 1914, one of the hired helpers at Wright's home in Spring Green, Wisconsin, killed Mamah, her children from a previous marriage, and several other staffers as the home went up in flames.

Years later in 1924, after Wright married Maude Noel, Wright accompanied a friend to a fateful matinee of a Russian ballet at the Eighth Street Theater in Chicago. Once seated, there was one empty chair in their box until Olga was seated in it. From that moment on, she and Wright were inseparable.

According to their daughter, Iovanna Rosa Wright, the meeting was "love at first sight." Olga also spoke glowingly about their connection, describing it as "two powerful magnets being drawn together."

After the performance that sparked a lifelong romance, Olga and Wright divorced their current spouses and eventually wed each other in 1928. They continued to love each other until his death in 1959.

Eighth Street Theater Becomes Part of Chicago Hilton and Towers

The Eighth Street Theater, located at 741 S. Wabash Ave., was built in 1905 and quickly became an important Chicago building. It held the 1907 Democratic City Convention, dance performances, and boxing matches. By 1932, it had become the stage for the popular country program, "The WLS Barn Dance." Gene Autry was even a regular performer as a yodeling cowboy from Oklahoma.

In 1957, the Joffrey Ballet made its first major city debut at the Eighth Street Theater before making Chicago their home many years later.

Around 1960, the Eighth Street Theater was torn down and rebuilt as a convention facility for the neighboring hotel, the Conrad Hilton Hotel. The hotel was once the largest hotel in the world, named the Stevens Hotel, until it was bought out by Conrad Hilton and renovated after being used as shelter for U.S. Army cadet trainees. It now goes by the name Chicago Hilton and Towers, and the convention center that took the place of the theater now hosts some of the most beautiful Chicago weddings, trade shows, and business meetings.

Janoa Taylor is a freelance writer with a background in business and finance. She offers a unique local perspective gained from years as a Chicago resident.

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