Originally erected in 1926, the Raffaello Hotel opened as Hampshire House, a cooperative 16 story apartment building. Architect Fugard & Knapp had the vision to build the downtown property in the neo-renaissance fashion, a style unique to Chicago.
In 1943 Wesley Memorial Hospital purchased the Hampshire House to help satisfy the war-caused need for additional nurses, leaving the current residents irate at the loss of their homes. This acquisition was made possible by Presidential approval of a federal grant of $125,000 and a loan of $150,000, to which the hospital added $175,000. The 17-story Wesley Memorial hospital nurses’ home was forever known as “one of the most unusual residences of its kind,” shared by 210 student nurses from all parts of the mid-west.
Following its days as a dorm for the Wesley Memorial Nursing Program, the hospital sold out to Romanek-Golub who put $3.5 million into the renovations to operate as a small, service-oriented hotel catering to executives visiting Chicago.
“Save up your pennies so next January you can give a house party or a dinner dance in a plush new setting, the penthouse atop Hampshire House.” In 1972 the Hampshire house was marketing the top floor as the most elegant of living rooms with 24 foot ceilings, two bedrooms, formal dining rooms, a paneled office with the bar hidden by moveable bookcase, two bedrooms, formal dining rooms and of course, the outdoor terrace with views of Lake Michigan.
After the Hampshire House closed its doors in 1978, the property was then purchased by the Raphael Hotel company of Kansas City, which in turn became the name of the hotel. “The very posh Hampshire House will close at the end of this week for a complete renovation and will reopen in spring.” Philip Pistilli, President of company, took the property and increased its value by expanding and renovating the rooms.
Changing ownership in 1997, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. acquired the Raphael for $17.75 million. Eight years later, Crescent Heights, a Miami-based developer paid nearly $21 million for the Raphael.
In 2006, Menin Hotels opened the Raffaello Hotel in early November after a $25 million renovation, transplanting the revived historic property back on the Downtown Chicago map, right where it belongs.