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Ewauld and Eva of The Drake in Chicago

Ewauld and Eva Meitzner worked over forty years at The Drake in Chicago. Ewauld served as Matre’d of the world famous Men’s Club, or Coq d’Or. Eva served as hostess with the Arcade’s elegant Gift Salon.

 

The Coq d’Or was a gentleman’s bar for gentlemen only. Local men of prestige, renown, and wealth, or men of equal stature from out of town.

 

The bar’s appointments were, indisputably, the very finest in any hotel between Chicago and New York City to the east, or San Francisco to the west.

 

* Hand-carved, imported black walnut front door, entered from the hotel’s marble corridor.

* Rich marble and dark walnut foyer entry.

* Finely polished ceiling-to-floor paneling.

* Small collection of original oil paintings by masters.

* Custom-made tables, chairs and bar stools.

* Sparkling, gold-edged mirror behind the curved bar.

* Velvety plush deep crimson carpeting,

* Philharmonic-quality music system.

 

Many of the harvested woods had been hand selected by The Drake’s eminent architect Benjamin Howard Marshall and co-founders and brothers, John P. Drake and Tracy Corey Drake.

 

Ewauld seemed to know every visitor by name. On sight. Without introduction. Instinctively, he knew what to say to each man, and how to say it. He knew much about each man that visited the Coq d’Or. He knew how to respect them, and protect their privacy. (This was before Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

 

He ensured that the Coq d’Or, at all times, represented The Drake at its best. In kind, the owners of the international hotel treated Ewauld with the utmost of respect and appreciation. (Including financially.)

 

Ewauld had the kind of personality that made everyone feel welcome, respected and relaxed.

 

Ewauld was a man of short stature. His distinguished wavy silver hair nearly as famous s the hotel that he served. His uniform: Impeccably-fitting black or dark blue pin-stripe suits, white pleated dress shirts, matching or deep-red silk ties. And, black dress shoes that shone!On occasion, he wore a European-cut tuxedo suit, but never a dinner jacket.

 

Eva served as hostess and manager of the Gift Salon in the Arcade. Its elegant amenities featured:

 

* White and white-gold marble-veined floor.

* Glass cased, lined in red or ivory velvet.

* Gold damask-upholstered settees, and carved arm chairs, imported from Paris.

* Crystal chandeliers that lent a soft glow, that complemented the fine jewelry sold there, and the fine ladies that shopped there.

* Dainty china tea cups, and elegant tea service.

* Red, Velvet-lined gold gift boxes, and white-gold satin ribbons bearing The Drake emblem.

 

Every aspect of the Gift Salon’s operations was handled by Eva, personally. Displays, items sold, pricing, “client services,” boxing and wrapping of purchases, Salon’s stationery design, hand-written “Thank you” notes to clients, etc.

 

Her business mind was sharp, and almost photographic. Her personality: warm, friendly, “endearing.” She possessed a subtle wit, her eyes always sparkling with glee. She knew how to treat fine ladies, because she was one.

 

Like Ewauld, Eva was short. Petite and elegant, in a country-manor way. She wore her silver-blonde hair short, with soft waves around her delicate face. She dressed in tasteful, one or two-piece dresses, or finely tailored suits. Fine fabrics, soft and basic hues. Two-inch pumps, always in a neutral shade. One strand opearls, or a simple gold necklace around her neck, matching ear rings, a ladies Bulova watch, and her gold wedding ring.

 

One of the Meitzner’s “perks” was their upstairs apartment at The Drake. An apartment that set unused, except during the busy holiday season at the hotel, and in very inclement weather. Days off- always taken together – were enjoyed at their cozy apartment on North Lincoln Avenue. Vacations were spent at their cottage on Lake Geneva, north of Chicago. A place as cozy as The Drake was elegant.

 

Ewauld and Eva never had children. Ewauld and Eva took my mother under their wing, when she worked part-time at The Drake. A design student and alone, she appreciated the watchful eye of the Meitzners, and other regular staff members.

 

A Surprise from The Meitzners

 

In May of 2015, my mother received a custom-made carton, bearing a shipping label with The Drake’s newer logo. Inside were two small wooden boxes, each bearing The Drake’s original emblem design. Both hand-carved, each box had brass hinges and a brass lock and key. Each box had a brass plate on its lid. One was etched with Ewauld’s name, the other with Eva’s name.

 

It had been over 50 years since my mother had worked at The Drake. Both Ewauld and Eva had died before 1990. Mom’s last one-on-one communication with anyone at the five-star hotel had been in with the former general manager: Sir Patrick Kane.

 

Who had sent the little boxes? Someone knew how much Ewauld and Eva still meant to their former co-worker, and “little duckling.” And, cared enough to find her, and make certain that those keepsake boxes were placed in her hands.

 

Historical Note: The Drake was founded in 1919-1920. In December of 2014, The Drake joined the Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since 1980, the hotel has been a part of Hilton International.

 

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The Drake is located, off of North Michigan Avenue, at 140 East Walton Place,

Chicago, Illinois. Phone: 1.312.787.2200. Reservations: 1.800.553.7233.

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Thank you, everyone, for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

Copyright 2016. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

 

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