The Biography of Chicago’s Marina City

Nancy Goldberg, restaurateur
November 12, 1996

Nancy Goldberg, circa 1972. Photo by Victor Skrebneski. In a city known for culinary excellence, one restaurant stood out in the 1960s. Maxim’s de Paris opened in 1963 and quickly became a favorite of celebrities and Chicago’s elite. It was a replica of a famous Parisian restaurant with the same name and it was owned and managed by Nancy Goldberg.

Nancy died on November 12, 1996 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital at the age of 74.

(Left) Nancy Goldberg, wife of Marina City architect Bertrand Goldberg, circa 1972, photographed by Victor Skrebneski.

Born in Chicago in 1922, she was the daughter of Irving Florsheim, chairman of Florsheim Shoe Company from 1936 to 1959, and noted sculptor Lillian H. Florsheim. She graduated from The Latin School of Chicago, a private school for students through 12th grade, and Smith College, where she studied mathematics and philosophy. She had a pilot’s license and during World War II worked at a plant that made bombers. Nancy won many trophies for horse riding and was considered a fine chef.

Married to Bertrand Goldberg since 1946, she had two daughters, Lisa and Nan, born in 1950 and 1952, and a son, Geoffrey, born in 1955, who himself is an architect. She lived on the Near North Side of Chicago and was administrator of the Lillian H. Florsheim Foundation for Fine Arts.

Maxim’s was located in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, in the basement of Astor Tower, a high-rise building designed by her husband. In 1982, the Chicago Tribune described Maxim’s as “the first designer restaurant.” For its grand opening, a team of eight chefs prepared a meal based on one that had been prepared for George V, the king of England from 1910 to 1936.

“Very quickly,” wrote the Tribune, “those who rated restaurants in the city and the world began praising Maxim’s and sprinkling stars on it.”

Said Bertrand, “She was a woman of enormous quality. She loved fine foods and fine wines and to serve the people who appreciated them.”

Geoffrey Goldberg said in 2009 his mother ended up managing the restaurant, from 1963 to 1982, “by default.”

“They’re about to open. No one’s in charge. Guess who jumps into the mix. She’s in the restaurant business. She’s interviewing chefs. Never had a restaurant in her life.”

But she learned quickly, said Geoffrey. “She had a lot of fun with it.”

She called herself a “saloon keeper,” wrote Geoffrey in 2011. “Widely remembered for her forthright character and good humor, she was a formidable person interested in the larger picture and detail. Her savvy and straightforwardness served as a real-world compass to her more exploratory husband.”

The restaurant is now The Nancy Goldberg International Center, operated by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs as a facility for private events.

(Right) Entry at The Nancy Goldberg International Center.

Entry at The Nancy Goldberg International Center.

Last updated 22-Jul-15

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