The Expo will take place in the historic Hilton Hotel in Chicago’s South Loop, occupying one square city block on Michigan Avenue across from Grant Park. The hotel is rich in history, having been visited by American presidents, diplomats from around the world, actors and celebrities, and countless tourists who’ve called it home base as they explore one of the most scenic and historic cities in America. 

The exhibit and vendors areas will occupy a beautiful and well-lit 40,000-square-foot space with additional room to expand as needed; adjoining break-out rooms for seminars and lectures; a spacious room for the judges and show administration, and awards to take place in the hotel’s famous Grand Ballroom, the most regal space of its kind in Chicago. Spacious, well-appointed rooms will be available to modelers at a discounted rate while it lasts, a bargain compared to other hotel rooms in Downtown Chicago or any big U.S. or European city and tourist destination.

As noted, the Hilton is steps away from Lake Michigan and Grant Park, “Chicago’s front yard,” and easy walking distance to the fabulous Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, and the city’s Magnificent Mile shopping strip along Michigan Avenue to the north, across the Chicago River. Some of the finest restaurants in the world are a walk or a quick cab ride away, and cabs or public transportation provide easy access to the Museum of Science and Industry, Navy Pier, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, the Pritzker Military Museum, and other world-famous attractions.

Hilton Hotel Exhibition, Seminars and Awards Spaces

Main Exhibit and Vendors space (expandable).
One of two seminar rooms and the Grand Ballroom for the awards.

The Hilton also has a fine restaurant (plans are underway for a dinner for modelers), a coffee shop, and other useful amenities (including a FedEx outlet and a dry cleaner). Several restaurants at every price point as well as Buddy Guy’s Legends blues club and a well-stocked art store (for emergency paint and glue!) are a one-block walk away.

TRANSPORTATION/ACCESSIBILITY

The Hilton is easily accessibly by highways feeding into the South Loop (which is much less congested than other areas of the city, especially on weekends) from the north, south, and west. But we highly recommend taking public transportation to the hotel if possible: It is a quick and inexpensive ride by cab or train from O'Hare International Airport or Midway Airport (as well as from Union Station, if you want to take the train to Chicago), and Our Town is one of America's great walking cities. Save the expense and hassle of renting a car and use the information we've provided on this site under the ATTRACTIONS tab to explore on foot or by public transit!

 

THE HISTORY OF THE HILTON

President Eisenhower visits the Hilton.

President Eisenhower visits the Hilton.

President Kennedy with Mayor Daley at the Hilton.

President Kennedy with Mayor Daley at the Hilton.

Conceived as one of the grandest American hotels, the Stevens Hotel was built in 1927 at a then-staggering cost of $30 million. A half-century later, it was purchased by the Hilton chain and renovated at a cost of $150 million. Since then, it has housed presidents, visiting royalty, and of course hundreds of thousands of guests from around the world.

This link provides an interesting illustrated read on the history of the hotel.

One famous event that the article above and the literature provided by the hotel shorts, however, is the riot surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention, for which the Hilton was ground zero. Here is my short account of those fascinating happenings.

The Hilton and Chicago in 1968

By Jim DeRogatis

In 1968, mired in the controversies surrounding the war in Vietnam, Lyndon B. Johnson decided not to run for re-election; he had of course assumed the presidency upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Chicago’s infamous Boss, Mayor Richard J. Daley, lobbied hard to hold the convention in his city. The formal gathering took place at the International Amphitheatre at 4220 S. Halsted (now torn down, it was next door to the new United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls). But most of the fiercely divided delegates as well as the battling candidates—Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Sen. Edmund Muskie, Sen. George McGovern, and Sen. Eugene McCarthy (who became the anti-war activists’ favorite after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy)—stayed six miles away, at the Hilton Hotel.

Chicago already had been the site of serious civil unrest on the city’s South and especially West sides following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968. Daley believed the police should have responded to those riots with more force—he was disappointed that many officers had not followed his order to “shoot to kill arsonists” and “shoot to maim looters”—and he vowed that the planned anti-war protests coming to Chicago for the convention would be dealt with more harshly.

These protests were organized (though without much real organization) primarily by the free-wheeling New York Yippies and the much more sober-minded National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (the MOBE), competing groups that never had a focused agenda in coming to Chicago, and which could not have been more different stylistically. Daley’s courts made matters worse by delaying the granting of permits for protestors to gather and sleep in either Grant Park, directly across from the Hilton, or Lincoln Park, a little less than five miles to the North along Lake Michigan. The permits never were granted, and each night, police cleared the parks, often with teargas and swinging billy clubs—tactics that backfired when protestors swarmed into the streets of the South Loop and the Lincoln Park and Old Town neighborhoods, smashing store and car windows until they were chased down, beaten, and thrown into Police Paddy Wagons. All of this was captured by journalists, who often were bigger targets than the protestors (including future anchorman Dan Rather, who was beaten while broadcasting from the floor of the convention as Walter Cronkite expressed disgust at the violence).

The most infamous pictures came from the clashes directly in front of the Hilton, on Michigan Avenue between Balbo Drive and Harrison Street. As the delegates and candidates watched from the upper-floor windows of the hotel, choking on drifting tear gas, police beat protestors and journalists, even throwing some through the plate-glass windows of what is now Kitty O’Shea’s Pub. Amazingly, to borrow the title from one of the best books on these events, no one was killed, though local and federal commissions studying the events in their aftermath termed the incident “a police riot”—that is, a riot that actually was started by the police—which prompted the thick-tongued Mayor Daley to utter his famous quote, “The police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder.

In time, the National Guard was called in, and in contrast to later events on the campus of Kent State in Ohio, the soldiers managed to calm down both the police and the protestors, and the riots ended with the convention (which nominated Humphrey, who went down to a stunning defeat at the hands of Republican Richard M. Nixon).

American historians now consider the events at the 1968 Democratic National Convention to be the turning point for many Americans’ opposition to the War in Vietnam, but the story did not end there: Nearly as infamous was the trial of the so-called “Chicago Eight” that followed. Prosecutors attempted to place the blame for the riots on “outside agitators” Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale (a Black Panther who barely took part in the protests and whose case eventually was severed from that of the other seven, but not before he notoriously was bound and gagged in Judge Julius Hoffman’s courtroom). Defended by a team lead by free-speech activists William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass, the Eight were all convicted, and the judge threw their attorneys in jail, too, for allegedly trying to turn the trial into a media spectacle (which it was). The convictions all were eventually reversed on appeal, and the government declined to try the case again.

As a student of rock music, the counterculture, and the Sixties, who teaches at Columbia College Chicago at the epicenter of these events, the 1968 Riots hold a special fascination for me, and I strongly recommend as the best books on the subject the following: No One Was Killed: The Democratic National Convention, August 1968 by John Schultz (later a legendary professor fiction writing at Columbia); Battleground Chicago: The Police and the 1968 Democratic National Convention by Frank Kusch (who tells the story from the cops’ perspective); Chicago ’68 by David Farber, and Miami and the Siege of Chicago by the great Norman Mailer. Also recommended: Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Eight by Jon Wiener; The Chicago Conspiracy Trial by John Schultz, and Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence by Bryan Burrough.

But, please, rest assured: Chicago is a much, much friendlier place today!