For me, a staycation has typically involved finding a hotel deal downtown, doing embarrassingly touristy things like paying too much for cocktails and making ridiculously early or scandalously late reservations at the new cool-kid restaurant, and throwing shade at actual tourists.
Then, in a former journalistic life, I got an invite to stay at the Publishing House Bed & Breakfast in the West Loop, owned by a local couple, and a new staycation challenge occurred to me: to stay, eat, and drink local the entire time.
If you don’t count Airbnbs or VRBOs, meeting the accommodations part of an all-local challenge is no easy task, especially close to downtown. There are fewer than 20 independently owned and operated bed-and-breakfasts in Chicago proper, spread from Edgewater to Bronzeville. It’s a rare extravagance, and after my stay at Publishing House, I would argue the urban B&B is the best way to staycation. You get the feeling of being hosted at a well-appointed home, easy access to some of the city’s most walkable neighborhoods, and a homemade breakfast free of powdered eggs.
From the shockingly blue front door to the eye-popping views of downtown from the common living room to the cozy custom breakfasts, the Publishing House has been crafted to make guests feel as if they’re staying with friends. Friends who happen to have a meticulously designed and decorated 11-room mansion steps from Randolph Street’s restaurant row and Fulton Market, and with a full restaurant and bar on-site. We all need more friends like these.
It’s not uncommon for guests, especially wedding and birthday parties, to rent out the whole place for the weekend, and it feels so much like someone’s house that owners Shawn Uldridge and Kimberly Lowery have found folks crashed out on the common-area couch in front of the two-sided fireplace.
Guests have also hosted writers’ retreats, and the name of both the B&B and the adjoining restaurant—the Press Room—make it an inspired choice. The building was constructed in 1909 as the Free Methodist Publishing House, and shortly after that it was occupied by a casket factory and showroom.
The building was the last holography museum in the United States until the bank repossessed it in 2009. Uldridge and Lowery bought the place in 2014 and spent the next three years working with a woman-powered team of architects and designers to build out the bed-and-breakfast, restaurant, and retail space. My stay was part of an assignment for a feminist magazine, so we talked a lot about the impact women have had in transforming the building from oddball museum to boutique-y getaway. To get a sense of how rare their woman-led architecture and design team is, consider this: women make up half the graduates from architecture programs in the U.S., but only 20 percent of the licensed architects and 17 percent of the partners or principals in U.S. architecture firms.
Every Publishing House guest room has its own name—Second City, Cisneros, and Audrey, for example—and its own distinct design identity. It all feels intentional without being pretentious; these are your mansion-owning friends who are looking to pamper you without showing off.
Publishing House rates vary according to the day of the week, the time of year, the size of the room, and of course, whether you want to rent out the whole shebang. The upstairs space with killer downtown views is also available for meetings and events, and Sofar Sounds has even held concerts there.
Staycation challenge: accepted. v