Last updated: 12:58 PM ET, Sun January 03 2016

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  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | January 3, 2016 12:58 PM ET

    Past and Present Mingle at Chicago’s New Residence Inn

    Past and Present Mingle at Chicago’s New Residence Inn

    Photos by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

    The Windy City offers a treasure trove of architectural riches, but it's rare to have the chance to stay in a historic landmark building in the heart of the Loop financial district. Most of the area's structures are office buildings, but the opening of Residence Inn by Marriott Chicago Downtown/Loop changes the game.

    The new hotel is housed in the 100-year-old Roanoke Building, which represents a significant era of Chicago history and is registered as a Historic Landmark. The hotel has restored key elements of the building to create an intensive Chicago heritage experience for business and family travelers alike and is the only extended stay, branded hotel South of the Chicago River.

    The Roanoke Building was constructed by the McCormick Brothers in 1915. They made millions by inventing the mechanical reaper to harvest corn and wheat and pumped their money into real estate and politics. I toured the newly opened hotel to take a peek inside this Chi-town landmark and this is what I discovered:

    Boutique Style With Historic Details

    The Residence Inn Chicago Downtown/Loop hotel marks the brand's 700th property worldwide, so the familiar amenities like a free breakfast buffet, laundry facilities and kitchenettes are all there. There's also complimentary grocery shopping, a fitness center and a lounge space with free Wi-Fi.

    What I found interesting was how the hotel incorporated details of the building history into the contemporary space. All the artwork showcases architectural details of landmark Loop buildings. I spotted a photograph of Alexander Calder's “Flamingo” sculpture in one suite and an image of the Chicago Cultural Center Tiffany dome in another.

    Other cool points are century-old doorknobs bearing the McCormick family crest on bathroom doors in 100 suites and a gleaming, golden wall-mounted mailbox dating from 1915 and part of the original building, is still functional part of the lobby.

    Stunning Views

    In 1925, the Roanoke Building was one of Chicago's original skyscrapers and the hotel's 34 floors boast striking vistas of the Loop landscape. Grab one of the 380 rooms on a high floor for the best sightlines and you'll be able to gaze at the tops of the art deco Chicago Stock Exchange, the 19th century Rookery Building and the Federal Reserve Bank.

    Secret Features

    The cool thing about historic Chicago buildings is that they all harbor hidden tunnels, floors or spaces. This was usually connected to the bootlegging that Chi-town was noted for but the Residence Inn has retained other aspects of Chicago history.

    There's a bell tower tucked onto a top floor, with working bells that date from 1925. During that time, they rang four times a day to a Nordic tune. In the basement, the building's original electrical circuit fills a corner and further down, the trolley tracks from the coal cars that used to supply the building can be viewed. These elements aren't open for guests to check out but you can look at the pics here:

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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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