The legendary Pump Room first opened its doors in 1938 inside Chicago’s famed Ambassador East Hotel. From the very beginning its original owner, Ernie Byfield, set out to attract Hollywood’s best and brightest stars. To say that he succeeded would be an understatement, as the iconic restaurant that featured live entertainment, became a favorite celebrity hangout frequented by the biggest names in show biz—Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Judy Garland, Robert Wagner, Natalie Wood—the list of celebs who dined and drank here goes on and on and on.
It was in coveted Booth One with its telephone at the ready, where stars would vie to dine for the evening.
The original booth and telephone are no longer—the former is in the hands of the Chicago History Museum, the latter, allegedly stolen by a never identified thief. The fresh modern version of both are courtesy of Ian Schrager of Studio 54 fame, who several years ago purchased the restaurant and the hotel that housed it, then undertook a massive renovation of the property. Today the the 1926 Landmark building is known as the Public Chicago Hotel, and while the Pump Room is still located inside it has been completely overhauled and turned into a sleek, modern comfortable space.
The only original artifacts left from the Pump Room of old are nearly 800 black and white celebrity photographs that grace the walls of the restaurant’s vestibule and lower level.
It would seem that the constellation of once shining stars has been usurped by a new kind of constellation…
this one is made up of dimly-lit golden-hued globes that ironically cast just enough of a warm glow to make anyone dining here look like a celebrity.
Love this place in any form… Great post…
Love those light fixtures! A constellation – the perfect description!
Great post! Such a historic spot in Chicago. Nice to see the restaurant is still up and running, even though so much of the classic and elegant old school decor has gone by the wayside. Thank goodness all the gorgeous photos were saved!
What a legendary spot. I remember the old, original Pump Room with the bar, piano player/ jazz combos some evenings, and the gentle sounds of silverware on dishes and close conversations being had in the intimately lit venue. After its redecoration today, one can barely recognize it to be the same place! I’m glad they were able to save the historic black and white photos of all the stars who went there, but it’s unfortunate that they were relegated to lower-level wall space.