By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 01, 2022 at 9:03 AM

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For many folks arriving in historic downtown Cedarburg, the cream city brick Washington House Inn, W62N573 Washington Ave., is the first thing they see.


Built in 1886 – and perhaps designed by hometown architect William Hilgen, posits current owner Jim Pape – the building is a Queen Anne beauty and one of the tallest in the Washington Avenue Historic District.

That it looks as stunning as it does is a testament to Pape, who was also responsible for renovating and breathing new life into the former woolen mill that is now Cedar Creek Settlement, as well as some other Cedarburg gems.

The building as seen in a circa 1910 sketch. (PHOTO: Cedarburg History Museum)

When Pape bought the building in 1983 (actually, traded it for a duplex Milwaukee's East Side), the first floor had been chopped up into offices and storefronts.

“In the 1920s it went out as a hotel, and then it was apartments in the rooms above,” he says as we stand in the lobby, which had to be completely recreated, without the benefit of early photos.


“This was an attorney's office. That was a lamp shop (to the south) and there was a dentist on the north part.”

Outside, the facade had been altered with black Vitrolite glass panels and glass block. Removing those, especially the panels which had been attached with a strong adhesive, wasn’t kind to the notoriously fragile cream city bricks.

“What we had to do is take the brick out, turn them around and put them back,” Pape recalls.

The facade pre-renovation. (PHOTO: Jim Pape)

Pape also had to build a staircase as a second egress for hotel guests on the upper floors.


“In order to meet code,” he says, “we had to have two exits out of every room. We had to be able to exit a room and go this way and that way in case of an emergency. And so I ended up buying the 1865 Chocolate Factory building from Peter Blommer and putting the stairwell in and that gave us the exiting, and then later on, then we did the facade (of that building next door).”

Pape also bought the building just to the north of the Chocolate Factory building and later added more rooms behind both of those buildings.

After months of renovations, the Washington House Inn opened in September 1984.

A little history

The original Washington House Inn was built as a wood-frame edifice on this site (on the corner) in 1846 by German immigrant saddlemaker Conrad Horneffer.

Market Day 1898
The building in a photo taken on a market day in 1898. (PHOTO: Cedarburg History Museum)

Born in 1815, Horneffer came to the U.S. in 1836 and arrived in Milwaukee seven years later and is reported to have made the first leather trunk in town. Soon after, he was in Cedarburg, where he opened a harness shop.

After the Milwaukee and Northern Railway arrived in Cedarburg in 1870, that small hotel was surely too small.


Another German immigrant, Fred Jaucke, would fix that.

Jaucke, who had emigrated in 1854, settling first in Ohio and arriving in Wisconsin in 1856, went to Burlington and built the Western Union Hotel in 1871, which he operated for five years before selling it and moving to Cedarburg, where he bought the Washington House.

In 1886 he built both sections of the current building simultaneously, though it appears the two-story section on the corner was the first to be completed.

“​​This building is the largest and most notable of the several hotels surviving in the District,” notes the 1985 nomination report for the Washington Avenue Historic District. “Despite their disparity in size, the two sections are unified by similar facade design and repetition of decorative brick work.

“Each of the two sections of the building is divided into three parts by pilasters. The central bay resulting from this division extends to form a parapet above the roof line. Windows in this central bay (top floor only) are set beneath arch forms decorated with checkerboard patterns of brick headers. Other embellishments to the facade include brick corbelling and paneling at the denticulated cornice. It is considered architecturally significant as a representative example of a style and period of construction.”

By 1920, the hotel, as Pape noted, had gone out of business and was replaced by a mix of retail, offices, apartments and, on the third floor, a Knights of Columbus meeting hall.

second floor
Second floor corridor.

And for decades, the former hotel was utilized, but perhaps not beloved. If one looked up, the charm of the masonry remained, but at street level, the view was a rather nondescript one.


The work was formidable, but nothing that Pape – who a decade before had renovated the Cedar Creek Settlement, which he still owns today – couldn’t handle.

“It was a gut job there,” he says, as we leaf through a photo album documenting the work. The photos show the rooms with their vintage sinks as well as the lobby shorn down to the plaster and lath.

Jim Pape in the lobby as it appears now.
The same view in 1983.

Indicating an exterior photo he says, “Here's the back of it with a fire escape. This is now the entrance that we've got there (from the parking lot). We had to reconfigure this back part.”

Then there was that work out front to restore the first floor facade – which including rebuilding cream city brick pilasters that had been torn out to install the glass block and Vitrolite – and the construction of the staircase.


He also found some of the original doors in the basement and restored them and returned them to their original place in the front of the two-story building. They lead into the dining room, which has a lovely pressed tin ceiling that fits the style but isn’t original. Nothing down here is really original except the hardwood floor.


After the renovation, the new Washington House Inn opened with 15 rooms.

Guest room with exposed beams and stone.

“We have some relatively small rooms right above (the lobby) because that's the way they were originally,” Pape notes. “The third floor, though, was open. It was a masonic meeting room and there were some bathrooms up there, too, but it was never used for accommodations.”

In 1986, Pape added the five rooms over The Chocolate Factory next door and then in 1989 built nine more over the candy store just north. In 1994, he bought the Schroeder House a few doors further along Washington Avenue and added five more guest rooms.

Schroeder House.

Pape bought that 1853 house from the family of its 107-year-old matriarch, Gertie Schroeder, a descendant of its builder, merchant Juergen Schroeder.

Corridor with exposed beams and stone.

Each room also has a nameplate bearing the name of a Cedarburger from history, everything from politicians to doctors to merchants to schoolteachers.

Some of the rooms over the retail spaces are especially stunning, as is the corridor, because during renovation and construction, Pape left the building’s structural limestone and the original tamarack joists exposed, creating really evocative spaces.

You see the limestone everywhere in town and it comes from a quarry just up the road, Pape says.

That, along with the hand-hewn beams – lengths of tree cut down in the 1860s – capture the look and feel of historic Cedarburg, making this historic venue seem like the most appropriate place of all to bed down in this lovely town.

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 has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.