By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 30, 2023 at 8:13 AM

Hard as it may be to believe, The Pfister Hotel’s appearance on USA’s 10 best historic hotels list for 2023, released on Aug. 18 is the first time this Milwaukee stalwart has earned that distinction.

Surely not because anything has changed at the stunning 1893 downtown hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., designed by landmark Milwaukee architect Henry C. Koch, who also designed City Hall, Turner Hall, Golda Meir School, Gesu Church and many other local gems.

Someone, it seems, has finally noticed!

“In today's travel landscape, filled with shiny new resorts and ultra-modern skyscraper hotels, a bit of yesteryear is often welcome,” the article announcing the list avers. “Each of these 10 classic accommodations – nominated for the title of Best Historic Hotel by a panel of hotel experts and voted as the best by readers – has witnessed a great deal of history, and each has held true to its historic roots and unique sense of place.”

That certainly describes The Pfister – a Romanesque Revival gem built for tanning magnate Guido Pfister – which has a stunning lobby and, in its 1960s tower addition, a great top-floor cocktail lounge.

The hotel clocks in at No. 6 on a list that also includes Mackinac Island’s Island House, Hotel del Coronado just off the shores of San Diego and the amazing Peabody Hotel in Memphis, which is has the most famous winged residents of any hotel on the list.

“Billed as the ‘Grand Hotel of the West’ when it first opened in 1893, The Pfister Hotel was the first in America with a thermostat for each guest room,” the article notes.

“Nowadays, you'll find the largest collection of American Victorian Art at this Milwaukee landmark hotel. Don't forget to head up to the 23rd-floor cocktail lounge for views of Lake Michigan and the rest of Wisconsin's largest city.”

Topping the list?

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Bethlehem Hotel, which occupies a site that’s been home to a hotel since 1741.

“It is an incredible honor to be recognized among the nation’s top 10 historic hotels by USA TODAY, especially considering the important role reader input played in our selection,” says Marcus Hotels & Resorts President Michael Evans. “With The Pfister celebrating its 130th anniversary this year, this designation is especially meaningful as we honor decades of impeccable elegance and beloved traditions at this most special hotel.

“As many will attest, The Pfister long has been home to generations of memory-making moments, including engagements, weddings, anniversaries and celebrations, along with history-making events, career defining accomplishments and so much more.”

The hotel is currently undergoing a renovation as it celebrates its 130th birthday.

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 has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

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