The Père Marquette (1926) stands fourteen stories in downtown Peoria, Illinois, and features 288 guest rooms. The hotel arose during the Roaring '20s when city leaders and prominent entrepreneurs routinely sought to showcase its city through grand, lavish hotels and magnificent theaters, Traveling businessman and guests (often wealthy) could stay at hotels and enjoy the city's social offerings. The hotel is named for the explorer Father Père (Jacques) Marquette, who not only traveled the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, but settled in Peoria during the late seventeenth century. He was also the first European to winter in what is now Chicago. A mural of his Peoria landing hung in the hotel lobby.
Built in 1926, the Père Marquette Hotel opened its doors during the height of the Roaring '20s era, and its location across from across the street from the Madison Theater building notes the popularity of theater life during that same period. The hotel name pays homage to Father Père Marquette (or Jaques Marquette), who explored much of what is now the Eastern Great Lakes region (including along the Illinois River near Peoria) and was part of the first European party to winter in what is now Chicago.
Plans for the hotel emerged in 1924 business leaders sought to construct a first-class hotel in downtown Peoria, deemed necessary to accommodate the downtown social life, visitors, and traveling businesspersons. Much like the grand hotels of New York and Chicago, designs for the hotel included several lavish, ornate, and modern characteristics. Guests immediately entered the building through a grand lobby and could attend parties in the ballroom that featured a high, domed ceiling and large, French-window mirrors. Crystal chandeliers and art pieces could also be found in several places throughout the hotel. And, guests also had the opportunity to enjoy the hotel's fine dining as it staffed world-class chefs, usually with French training.
One art piece, in particular, speaks to the hotel's name. The financier commissioned George M Harding, an artist renowned for his work in Harper's Weekly and the Saturday Evening Post, to paint two murals for the hotel. Harding spent eight weeks researching the murals before starting his work, one of which detailed Père Marquette landing in Peoria in 1673 (then home to the Native American Pimiteoui Nation).
The hotel did more than offer eye-catching details because it also served the town's economic needs as a convention center. The hotel held 14 conventions in 1927, which increased to 46 by 1935. Even though the 1950s and '60s, the hotel held the distinction as the largest convention center in Illinois, outside of Chicago.
The original owners managed the property until 1933, during the Great Depression, and then they sold it to a Des Moines hotel chain, who managed it until 1951. After that, it was sold to the Hilton Corporation. Since then, it has changed hands several times. Most recently it operated as part of the Marriott chain, but in 2018 it was sold again to a new group. Regardless of the changes, the hotel operated as an important component of Peoria's business and social history for decades. Numerous celebrities and dignitaries stayed or visited the hotel; Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Ford stayed in the hotel while Reagan and Carter spoke there.
Edmunds, R. David, "Chicago in the Middle Ground." Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. ChicagoHistory.org. Accessed May 8, 2019. http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/300129.html
Koonce, Tanya. "A New Owner Coming Soon for Peoria's Pere and Courtyard Hotels." WCBU Peoria Public Radio. peoriapublicradio.org. March 2, 2018. https://www.peoriapublicradio.org/post/new-owner-coming-soon-peorias-pere-and-courtyard-hotels#stream/0
Leitch, David R. "Nomination Form: Pere Marquette Hotel." National Register of Historic Places. nps.gov. August 12, 1982. Digitized form located at http://gis.hpa.state.il.us/PDFs/201355.pdf.
Pere Marquette Hotel: CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=843166