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 Jan. 29, 2015
If you've walked or driven past lately, you've likely seen that work on the Milwaukee Art Museum and War Memorial Center is well underway. Here's an update.
Published Jan. 28, 2015
The fire that destroyed the Metropolitan Block - described as "the equal to any building in the country" - was a sad reality, despite my own foggy memories of it.
Published Jan. 27, 2015
The visionary civil rights leader visited our city to speak on at least two occasions. His comments half a century ago remain as true now as they were then. Here is some of what he told Milwaukeeans.
Published Jan. 26, 2015
Maybe it's just because I love visiting schools, but I always tell prospective parents to go to a school that interests them as a potential option for their children. Sure, read Great Schools' ratings, talk to other parents, Google the school, but if you're going to do one thing only: go to the school. Not sure which school or schools to check out? Then the first step is to visit the MPS All-School Enrollment Fair on Saturday, Jan. 31 at Milwaukee High School of the Arts.
Published Jan. 26, 2015
DNA testing for genealogical purposes can open up new vistas in your self-identity and your self-awareness. We took a test and here's what we learned.
Published Jan. 24, 2015
When Milwaukee's Italian community read the news that a group of Americans - including many prominent city residents - would protest Italian intervention in Spain outside the Italian Consulate in June 1937, it must have awaited the event with at least some trepidation. When the protests took place, everyone - including the picketers themselves - were surprised by what occurred and by the reaction of Milwaukeeans.
Published Jan. 22, 2015
By the 1970s, an ugly addition and the gutting of the deco charm inside left The Edgewater a mere shadow of its original glory on the shores of Lake Mendota. But now, with a new owner, a completely new renovation and a brand new sister building across an inviting plaza, The Edgewater is clearly atop the world of Madison hotels once again.
Published Jan. 20, 2015
If you want to hear more about Dermond Property Investments LLC's plan to develop the site long occupied by Faust Drum Center, 2204 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., and weigh in on it, Ald. Tony Zielinski hosts a town hall meeting on the proposed development on Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Bay View Post 180, 2860 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Published Jan. 20, 2015
The Williams House, 606 E. Homer St., holds special significance - both tragic and joyful - for Beau Walter's pioneering Bay View family.
Published Jan. 19, 2015
Much like a traveling tent show, the Wisconsin Historical Society is moving its new exhibition around the state and this month it's in Milwaukee. "The Wisconsin History Tour: Sharing Wisconsin's Stories One Community at a Time" is on view on the first floor of the Central Milwaukee Public Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave., through Jan. 29.