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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

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Readers Blog: OnMilwaukee.com Intern Team: Sean Mahon

The Majestic Pfister Hotel

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Great hotels always seem to possess a distinct ambiance. Whether it’s the vibe of a vacation, the buzz of a business meeting, or the elegance surrounding a special event, classic hotels just seem to have that classy feel and that certain “it” factor. The funny part about radiating the “it” factor is that it doesn’t necessarily need to be something concrete or materialistic.  It can be the location, the history, the people, the ambiance… and downtown Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel brings all of those elements together in one premier property.

A favorite haunt of Milwaukee’s most well-heeled visitors, the Pfister welcomes the city’s premier guests from Vice President Joe Biden to Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig to practically the entire headliner list from Summerfest.   Why do celebrities, politicians, business executives and tourists return time and time again to the Pfister?  Because this grand old hotel, celebrating its rich history while changing to address contemporary travelers’ needs, represents the best of Milwaukee.  

The Pfister opened in 1893. To put that in perspective, UW-Milwaukee was in its 8th year of existence, Marquette University was nearing its teenage years, and the Milwaukee Zoo, opened one year earlier, consisted of a miniature mammal and bird display.  Pabst’s flagship beer reportedly won its “Blue Ribbon” that year and Grover Cleveland was president of the United States – all 43 of them.  Not to mention, there was no internet, cell phones, or iPods.  In that way, the Pfister best depicts the history of Milwaukee. Its elegant yet warm feeling provided by the attentive and hospitable staff makes you feel much more like an invited house guest than a paying customer. It has a touch of everything inside: a café for brunch or a snack, a lobby bar graced with renowned pianists, a world class spa, an upscale steak house in the form of the Mason Street Grill, and a roof top lounge, Blu, offering one of the finest views available in the city.

The Pfister went for an extreme makeover beginning in 1962 with many renovations and an entirely new northern building built as an add-on project to the hotel. This would eventually lead to the Blu Lounge with the panoramic view of the downtown area and a swimming pool on the top floor.  This is a taste of how Milwaukee has progressed and stayed current in the times since then, moving from a primarily industrial town to a diverse commercial city with an increasingly sophisticated clientele.

Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel reflects the many faces of this contemporary community. A blend of class and history, a splash of fun with the Blu bar, a hearty meal after a hard day’s work at the Mason Street Grill, and the elegance seen throughout the hotel tell the story of this unique and historical establishment.

However, the Pfister comes with more than just good food, a polite staff, and a gorgeous interior. Myths and legends about the hotel and its occupants abound, and have grown in both scope and detail over the years.  For better or worse, the Pfister has its own mythical ‘ghost’ that roams the halls at night, adding to its seemingly endless storylines. Some ballplayers, specifically former Cardinals shortstop, Brendan Ryan, used to spread the majestic tales of seeing the ghost of Charles Pfister in the halls.

Dubbed the “Grand Hotel of the West” upon its completion in 1893, the Pfister remains just that well over a century later. The Pfister Hotel truly represents the city of Milwaukee at its finest.

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