Check in early and stay late during OnMilwaukee.com's "Hotel Week" sponsored by VISIT Milwaukee. The next seven days will be packed with stories about historic area hotels, reviews, famous guests, food and drink, overnights with kids and more. Find out what it's like to be a tourist in this town. (Chocolate on your pillow not included.)
There are hotels that occupy purpose-built structures, like The Pfister, for example, or the Aloft. And there are hotels that are created in the shells of buildings erected for other purposes, like the Hampton Inn on West Wisconsin Avenue and Hotel Metro, which occupy converted office buildings.
Over the years, Iâ€™ve stayed in both. A few of the latter kind of hotels have remained planted firmly in my memory. Here are some of them.
San Remo, San Francisco â€“ Located in the heart of the once Italian North Beach neighborhood, just steps from the heavenly focaccia at the legendary Liguria Bakery and not far from Molinari Deli, the Hotel San Remo is a European style hotel, by which I mean the rooms are tiny (with a capital "T") and with shared bathrooms down the hall. But what was really interesting to me when I stayed there was that the building was erected as a rooming house for Italian immigrants who arrived in San Francisco.
Built after the 1906 earthquake by no less than A.P. Giannini (who founded the Bank of America), the three-story, 62-room hotel and its restaurant was the stomping ground of itinerant laborers as well as merchant seamen, waterfront workers and a variety of creatives, like painters, poets and journalists.
The American Club, Kohler â€“ Sort of like the San Remo, but more swanky and much closer to home, The American Club was built in 1918 as housing for Kohler factory workers, many of whom were immigrants (hence the name of the restaurant, The Immigrant Club; another restaurant is in the old workersâ€™ dining room).
The current building was designed by Milwaukee architect Richard Philipp and used to have many amenities aimed at its single laborers, like a tavern (now the Horse and Plow), bowling alleys and more.
La Foresteria del Castello, Castellâ€™Alfero, Italy â€“ Lots of hotels in Italy occupy once-residential buildings, but only a few can boast of the kind of digs youâ€™ll find at La Foresteria del Castello in tiny Castellâ€™Alfero, just up the road from Asti and from Portacomaro, where the Popeâ€™s grandfather was born.
Called a castle, the most prominent building on the main square in Castellâ€™Alfero is the former mansion of the rich family that lorded over the town for many years, the Conte Amico. It's a remnant of feudalism.
Now, there are rooms that have modern amenities in a gorgeous historic setting. The fact that itâ€™s run by perhaps the nicest people youâ€™ll ever meet, and located in the gorgeous rolling hills of a Piemonte wine region are bonuses.
Hotel Burnham, Chicago â€“ This Kimpton Hotel shouts history. It's located on State Street in the Reliance Building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and became a National Historic Landmark six years later. Burnham and Root began the building in 1890 and Daniel Burnham recruited Charles Atwood to complete it five years later.
The Reliance has been called the "first comprehensive achievement" of the Chicago steel frame and reinforced concrete construction method, which allowed for the huge plate glass windows. The Reliance was one of the first skyscrapers in the world, paving the way for the likes of Mies van der Rohe.
Nowadays, there's still old world charm â€“ like window transoms â€“ and modern luxury in the restored building.
Ferme Veyret, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, France â€“ Despite being a city kid through and through, I love spending time in the countryside and in small villages, so you'll be unsurprised that this old farm turned hotel is near the top of my list. Though the address is in the town of Les Eyzies, the farm is actually in the tiniest of villages, Bardenat.
Add that it's in the Dordogne, one of France's most gorgeous and delicious (try the paper-thin walnut cookies and the hazelnut liqueur) regions â€“ and home to paleolithic cave paintings â€“ and what's not to love? There's a fois gras farm just down the road, so maybe that, depending on your stance on that culinary product.
Brewhouse Inn & Suites, Milwaukee â€“ OK, I havenâ€™t actually stayed here, but Iâ€™ve seen the lobby and the rooms of this hotel that opened last year in the former Pabst Brewery. Itâ€™s a hotel in a brewery and with the huge copper brew kettles (or at least their tops) extant. Pretty cool.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published July 31, 2015
Last week, I got a message from Paul Walter, a co-facilitator at the Slinger Authors' Camp, a youth program that's part of the Fox Valley Writing Project (which is, in turn, affiliated with the National Writing Project). The 17 kids in the program are suburban spelunking in their town.
Published July 30, 2015
There's no need to massage the statistics: men are hitting spas across the country - and right here in Milwaukee - in bigger numbers than ever before.
Published July 28, 2015
Some details of the plan for the new development in the trio of National Ace Hardware buildings on 4th and McKinley have emerged, right as plans for a new arena and entertainment district across the street have taken steps forward.
Published July 25, 2015
One of the Milwaukee area's most interesting parks is a bit off the beaten path, but it's worth making tracks to Lizard Mound County Park in Farmington, just north of West Bend in Washington County. A wooded path twists and turns through 28 Native American effigy mounds, including the one shaped like a huge lizard which gives the park its name.
Published July 24, 2015
Green Lake is a place of superlatives. Here are eight of the many reasons to fall in love with Green Lake, which is an easy 90-minute drive from Milwaukee.
Published July 24, 2015
What a long strange trip it was. While theaters like the Downer and Oriental have venerable histories as long-running cinema houses, consider, if you will, the the more varied history of the now-dilapidated State Theater, 2616 W. State St. Originally a movie theater, the State has served a number of purposes - rock venue, prudish dance hall and strip club - in its nearly 100-year history.
Published July 22, 2015
There were about 500 people on hand to watch U2 at The Palms on April 15, 1981. The show was part of the Irish band's first U.S. tour. Here's a look back...
Published July 21, 2015
Come with me to see the progress on the restoration of The Pabst Mansion's third floor and also peek into the basement and attic, and experience the view from the roof of this Milwaukee landmark.
Published July 17, 2015
Milwaukee neighborhoods were once awash in movie theaters, as hard as that may be to imagine these days when you can count the number of non-googleplex cinemas in the city limits on one hand. While many are lost, a few remain. At 3804 W. Vliet St. is a former longtime carpet store that's been closed the past few years. But, originally, the building was home to The Lyric Theater, which operated from 1917 to 1952.
Published July 14, 2015
In 2012, I toured the surviving Alexander Eschweiler-designed Agricultural College buildings on the County Grounds, when their roofs gaped open to the stars - and the elements - and weeds encircled their exteriors. Despite talk of tearing them down, and an ongoing battle to save them from demolition, four of the buildings survive, even as six new apartment buildings are rising around them.