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, I’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 – 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 – 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 workers’ 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, Castell’Alfero, Italy – Lots of hotels in Italy occupy once-residential buildings, but only a few can boast of the kind of digs you’ll find at La Foresteria del Castello in tiny Castell’Alfero, just up the road from Asti and from Portacomaro, where the Pope’s grandfather was born.
Called a castle, the most prominent building on the main square in Castell’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 it’s run by perhaps the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and located in the gorgeous rolling hills of a Piemonte wine region are bonuses.
Hotel Burnham, Chicago – 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 – like window transoms – and modern luxury in the restored building.
Ferme Veyret, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, France – 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 – and home to paleolithic cave paintings – 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 – OK, I haven’t actually stayed here, but I’ve seen the lobby and the rooms of this hotel that opened last year in the former Pabst Brewery. It’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 March 6, 2015
While today, Milwaukee Health Department's Southside Health Center, 1639 S. 23rd St., is a bright, cheery neighborhood clinic offering health advice, free immunizations and the like, this was once South View Hospital, built as an isolation facility for folks suffering from brutal contagious diseases.
Published March 5, 2015
Sadly, there is plenty of parking on the dancefloor in Downtown Milwaukee these days. Hard as it is to believe now, there have been a number of happening rock and roll joints in the heart of the city over the years. Here are a few of them...
Published March 5, 2015
This morning we posted a look back at some of Milwaukee's dead and gone Downtown rock and roll clubs. Here, Bobby Tanzilo recalls a few of them.
Published March 2, 2015
Every Monday, my child gets a writing prompt at school, and we've taken to discussing them in the car on the way to and from school. It's like a mini editorial meeting. We talk about potential content for the prompts.
Published March 2, 2015
Though Milwaukee band The Young Revelators comprises three young musicians, the music they play has deep roots in the blues and blues-based rock and roll.
Published Feb. 27, 2015
You'll be unsurprised to hear that visiting interesting Milwaukee buildings of all kinds leads to meeting all kinds of similarly interesting Milwaukeeans. But, when I visited Milwaukee Fire Dept.'s Engine 01, 784 N. Broadway, recently, the folks I met there were at least as interesting than the building itself.
Published Feb. 27, 2015
The Milwaukee Board of School Directors on Thursday night approved the construction contract to renovate the vacant Malcolm X site, 2760 N. 1st St., into a new home for Rufus King International Middle School, which currently inhabits a former elementary school.
Published Feb. 25, 2015
It always surprises me how many hotels there once were in Downtown Milwaukee. Here's a little look at one of them.
Published Feb. 24, 2015
Brewing in Milwaukee thrives today and at a range of levels, from homebrewers to craft beer producers to major breweries. Despite the differences in scale, all these brewmasters share a basic love for the work and for the results ... and they feel the weight of the the city's tradition of brewing.
Published Feb. 23, 2015
Though it's no longer there, one Downtown venue hosted at least three landmark clubs.