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10 Things You Need to Know About the Original Playboy Mansion in Chicago
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10 Things You Need to Know About the Original Playboy Mansion in Chicago

Picture of Kelsey Grace Pfeifer
Updated: 3 October 2017
The parties of the Playboy Mansion are as legendary as its owner, Hugh Hefner, who died last week. When most think of this lavish home, they associate it with a west coast mecca sporting a zoo, screening room and numerous grottos. However, few know that the original Playboy Mansion started where Hugh Hefner did – Chicago, Illinois. So let’s dive into this mysterious building and how it shaped the universally recognized brand that is Playboy.

It’s on the Gold Coast

A fitting place for someone to settle down – especially if they knew they’d go on to unimaginable riches. The Gold Coast is still a fine area today, boasting some of Chicago’s finest high rise buildings and and upscale living. The mansion still exists at 1340 N. State Pkwy., but has since been converted into condominiums. If you have the money you could even invest in one for a cool $3.4 million.

1340 N. State Pkwy.
1340 N. State Pkwy. | © Courtesy of Redfin

Hef bought it so he could put a pool in

Hefner bought the mansion in 1959 for $400,000 and originally planned to put a pool in the basement. He was finally able to achieve his dream after convincing the city that it was for personal, not commercial, use. To get to the pool, there was actually a fire pole that descended between the two floors. There was also a trap door right above the water should guests feel like diving from the living room into the pool.

The Bunnies lived there – with some rules

While Hef lived on the bottom floor of the apartment, the Bunnies occupied the top two floors of the mansion. Unlike the more modern Playboy Bunnies, they had to pay a rent of $50/month, which would be around $420/month in today’s rent. However, to keep their spot at the mansion, the Bunnies had to agree to have no male visitors, and consume no liquor unless Hef offered it.

Hef’s bedroom was his office

Many don’t mix business with pleasure, but for Hef, the two were one and the same. His bedroom was often filled with files and briefs, and also occupied by a huge circular bed – once described as having more controls and gadgets than a Boeing 747.

Hugh Hefner
Hugh Hefner | ©Alan Light/Flickr

There were some crazy rooms

Just like the Los Angeles mansion, Hugh Hefner did not skimp on outfitting his Chicago mansion with some of the most insane rooms known to man. Obviously there was the pool in the basement, but there were also sun and steam rooms, a games room, a bowling alley and a theater room with projector.

The guests were as crazy as the rooms

In the 1960s when Hef was just getting Playboy started, there was a genuine sexual revolution taking place in the United States, and everyone who was anyone wanted to be a part of it. Hefner hosted an inordinate amount of parties, with attendees including all five Rolling Stones, the author and cartoonist Shel Silverstein, actor Warren Beatty and actress Barbara Streisand.

The mansion was once college dorms

When Hefner bought the Los Angeles mansion in the early 1970s, it was clear that his Chicago abode would take a backseat. He realized that his space could be put to good use and so he leased it out to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for five years at $10/year. Hefner had taken a figure drawing class there and decided it would be a good way to give back. It was renamed Hefner Hall and remained in the school’s possession until 1990.

1340 N. State Pkwy
1340 N. State Pkwy | ©Courtesy of Redfin

The decorations made the mansion

The mansion was opulently decorated in some of the most outrageous decor for the times, further solidifying Hef’s overarching aesthetic of sex chic. Even the sign on the door read, Si Non Oscillas, Noli Tintinnare, which translates from Latin to “If you don’t swing, don’t ring.”

Hefner once invited 20 sociologists to the mansion

In 1965, Hefner invited 20 sociologists to the mansion for the American Sociological Association convention when it was held in Chicago. Obviously the sociologists began to explore and question the Bunnies, and most were pleasantly surprised when they discovered that Hef knew their work and was ready to speak on the subject of sociological sexuality.

The mansion made the man

Hefner credits his start in Chicago with making Playboy what it became. The magazine, after all, began in a tiny apartment in the city. But the mansion on the Gold Coast would be the start of the lavish parties, the girls and the outrageous designs. If anything, the Los Angeles mansion drew every inspiration from the ‘humble’ abode that still sits on 1340 N. State Pkwy.