Milwaukee has inherited many historic structures from its gilded, industrious past, and most from the men and women who made the city a major market competitor to Chicago. Today, many of the antique buildings constructed during those times have been renovated, renamed, and made into luxury hotels. Here’s a pick of the 10 best historic hotels in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Originally billed as the “Grand Hotel of the West” by Charles Pfister, the original owner of The Pfister Hotel, little has changed about this Milwaukee institution. With the largest Victorian art collection of any hotel in the world, The Pfister remains intact as a beacon of elegance and affluence, which regularly hosts celebrities and dignitaries visiting the city. Constructed in 1893, and with a renovation and a 23-story guest room tower addition in the 1960s, this one still oozes charm from every pore.
Built by once-influential Milwaukee businessman and newspaper publisher George Brumder in 1910, today the Brumder Mansion Bed & Breakfast attests to Milwaukee’s Golden Age of Industry. Built in the English Arts & Crafts style, the mansion is home to one of Milwaukee’s finest bed and breakfasts, offering some of the best lodging and entertainment options in the city. The building has been renovated to include whirlpool spas in each of the suites, making the Brumder Mansion Bed & Breakfast one of the premier, and most historical lodgings in Milwaukee.
As the old home of Milwaukee’s Northwestern Mutual insurance company way back in 1886, the building that now holds Hilton Garden Inn Milwaukee Downtown reflects a time of great industry growth for the company and stands as a testament to business culture in the Cream City. Operating in a national landmark, the hotel makes for an unforgettable stay in Milwaukee, from the building’s five-story grand atrium, to the 14-foot ceilings in each room and suite.
To determine the links between Chicago’s first settler, John Kinzie, George Clinton, two-time Vice President, and George J. Schuster, the commissioner of the mansion, step back in time and take the history tour during a stay at the Schuster Mansion Bed & Breakfast. From its restored bright-brown exterior, to the Victorian styled interior, this extremely detailed bed and breakfast is a lot to see in one visit, but an essential piece of Milwaukee history. Housekeepers Laura Sue and Rick are as generous and hospitable as they come, and veritable knowledge books on the history and significance of the mansion.
Since its completion in 1920, the Astor Hotel has provided visitors and permanent residents of this Yankee Hill institution a refined space, designed in tribute to Walter Schroeder, a Milwaukee hotel tycoon from times gone by. With an elevated, stained glass dome at first sight in the lobby and The Rotunda Room, the designers of this historic hotel left out no detail in its construction, especially in its beautiful and original crystal chandeliers.
Originally the home of David and Adda Howie, a coal merchant and a famous innovator of dairy farming techniques, the Manderley Bed & Breakfast is a quiet listing on the National Register of Historic Places, although it is quite extravagant, with its six fireplaces, intricate woodwork, and stained-glass windows. Detailed with an eclectic collection of natural art, the bed and breakfast is an ideal space to stay near Milwaukee’s old Miller Valley, the site of the world famous Miller Brewing Company.
Once a factory and warehouse for the Berger Bedding Company, The Iron Horse Hotel and its restaurant, Smyth, are committed to the preservation of the “industrial aesthetic” through an unwavering support of Milwaukee history and culture. For leisure and corporate guests alike, this hotel boasts a premier luxury hotel sensibility with its fitness center, spa, and Thursday Bike Nights, which include motorcycle exhibitions, displays, and contests, in homage to one of Milwaukee’s most famous companies, Harley-Davidson.
The Knickerbocker on the Lake Hotel has made its home in Milwaukee’s downtown since 1929, near the lake front of Lake Michigan. As a restored classical revival boutique hotel, the Knickerbocker features a grand foyer with original terrazzo floors, vaulted ceilings, and, for that extra touch of fancy, crystal chandeliers. This hotel has played host to a good many swanky guests, celebrities, musicians, and dignitaries in its hey day too, with many more no doubt still to come!
A fine Irish pub in its own right, the County Clare Irish Hotel knows a thing or two about Irish hospitality, being one of the group’s prevailing characteristics when they emigrated to Milwaukee in the first half of the 19th century. County Clare situates itself near Brady Street, a popular strip of nightlife in Milwaukee, as well as Henry Maier Festival Park, the home of ilwaukee’s many ethnic festivals, including, yes, Irish Fest.
Being relatively new to the Milwaukee hotel market, the art deco-inspired Hotel Metro makes its home in the iconic John Mariner Building in the city’s downtown. Designed in the style of its time, and being the first building to have full central air-conditioning, the hotel is now the first in Milwaukee to be certified by Travel Green Wisconsin, a program recently implemented by the Department of Tourism to increase transparency in the hotel industry.