The Tropics

The Big Band sound faded with the postwar rise of Rock and Roll, and with it, venues like The Tropics in the Chicagoan Hotel.

By then Sam Bari and Red Duncan, Chicago’s “famous” and “nationally known” Blind Pianist, were history. The Tropics were leveled along with the Chicagoan, the Morrison and the entire block at Clark & Madison in 1965. Four years later, the Chicago First National Bank Building, now the Chase Tower, and its expansive pedestrian plaza stood in their place.

The Chicagoan Hotel was an early adopter of the Polynesian-themed cocktail lounge that would sweep the nation after World War II. The hotel was built in 1930 as part of the sprawling Morrison Hotel complex at Clark & Madison streets in Chicago’s downtown Loop. With 2,210 rooms to fill during the Depression, the Morrison Hotel hived off the 1930 addition in 1937, leasing what became the Hotel Chicagoan. The Tropics was the Chicagoan’s Hawaiian themed cocktail lounge, with bamboo trimmed bar and hut booths, tropical drinks and a lively house band, Sam Bari and his Men of Rhythm. The hotels around Clark & Madison were the heart of Chicago’s Big Band scene from the 1930s into the 1950s.

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