By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Dec 12, 2017 at 11:01 AM

Just about a year ago, we took you inside the conversion of the historic Button Block building on Clybourn and Water Streets into a new Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel, 500 N. Water St.

You may remember the location as the site of the Brett Favre Steakhouse and Joey Buona's. Now, as the extended stay hotel – which caters especially to business travelers and has been welcoming guests since mid-November – celebrates its official grand opening, we went back in to see the finished product.

As part of a $17 million renovation by Kenosha-based Bear Development, the hotel has maintained many elements of the 1892 red sandstone building, including original hardwood floors and exposed cream city brick.

Around the hotel, you'll see a floral motif that was copied and adapted from a painted decoration on an old safe found in the basement when renovations began. The symbol is especially highlighted on round plaques mounted on each floor just outside the elevators.

The plaques were created by a sign artist who also made a small replica of the building's name plate. It hangs in the far end of the lobby, near the breakfast room.

The 94 rooms in the property are almost all suites, though a few are studio-sized rooms. All have kitchenettes with full-size fridges, dishwashers, stove and microwave. The rooms, which range from about 450 to about 600 square feet, also have pull-out sofa beds.

Though many of the rooms, especially those facing east (and some others with views of the river), have great vistas, the vibe of the suites located in the building's turret are the coolest. On a couple floors, these suites have platforms built into the turret that host comfortable day beds, so you can lounge and gaze out the windows.

The hotel boasts free hot breakfast daily and an evening social for guests (Monday-Thursday), as well as meeting space, a 24-hour shop, guest laundry, business center, a hot tub and – because Hilton requires a pool, but there was no way to add one to the Button Block – a cool splash pad.

The hotel hosts a Grand Opening Celebration, Thursday, Dec. 14 from 4 until 7 p.m., with a ribbon cutting slated for 4:30 p.m.

Here's a peek inside.


Business center

Meeting room

Splash pad

Fitness center



Living room

The view out the window of an east-facing suite

Valet drive-up

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.