The Edgewater

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Discover the Edgewater, which has existed as a prominent part of the Madison community since it first opened its doors in the 1940s.

The Edgewater, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2015, dates back to 1948.

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A member of Historic Hotels of America since 2014, The Edgewater has served as the main place to stay in downtown Madison for the last several decades. Sitting within the celebrated Mansion Hill Historic District, this fantastic resort is moments away from such renowned local attractions like the Wisconsin State Capitol, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Old Market Place. The Edgewater has also hosted the likes of celebrated businesspeople, Hollywood celebrities, and prominent statesmen for close to a century. It first opened its doors in the late 1940s, when the Quisling family began constructing a beautiful retreat along the shoreline of Lake Mendota. One of Madison’s most influential families in the early 1900s, the Quislings rose to prominence operating a family clinic just moments away from the current location of The Edgewater. They traced their origins to a Norwegian immigrant named Doctor Andreas Quisling, who traveled all the way to Madison in 1900. Doctor Abraham Quisling—Andreas’ oldest son—was the lead practitioner of the practice, working alongside his brothers, Sverre, Rolf, and Gunnarall. Together, they became immensely wealthy and started investing their finances into different business ventures in the city. One of the economic endeavors they decided to pursue was the construction of a magnificent lakeside hotel. They hired the renowned architect Lawrence Monberg to help them craft the facility, who used a wonderful blend of Art Moderne architecture as the source for his inspiration. Monberg and the Quislings had long entertained a professional relationship, as the architect had designed numerous buildings for the family during first half of 20th century. Next to the hotel, Monberg had designed such renowned structures like Quisling Tower Apartments the family’s famed medical facility.

After spending nearly two years constructing the destination, the Quisling family opened their luxurious retreat as the “Edgewater Hotel” in 1948. In just months, the Edgewater Hotel emerged as the top holiday destination in Madison. Overseeing this rapid transform was General Manager Augie Faulkner, who had previously managed The Drake Hotel in Chicago (also another member of Historic Hotels of America). He introduced many practices at the Edgewater Hotel that worked beautifully at The Drake, such as hosting all sorts of high-profile artists nearly every night. Among the most celebrated musical acts to regularly perform at the hotel was the legendary Jimmy Dorsey and his thrilling jazz band. Throughout the decades, The Edgewater hosted an array of celebrities, too, including Elvis Presley, Elton John, and Bob Marley. There's even a story of how Sammy Davis Jr. attempted to fish from his hotel window overlooking the lake! All the while, Augie Faulkner thoroughly adored his work. He held such an affinity for running the Edgewater Hotel that he eventually managed to purchase it outright from the Quislings in 1966. Then, in the 1970s, The Edgewater expanded to accommodate more overnight guests and added several signature amenities, including its restaurant. This amazing fine dining establishment quickly became beloved in Madison for its food, service, and beautiful waterfront views. The next great leap for the site was in August 2014, when the hotel reopened with the addition of a beautiful new tower, as well as the complete remodeling of the two existing buildings. Now known as “The Edgewater,” its current owners have spared no effort to create a vacation retreat that offers unrivaled luxury and comfort. And of equal importance, they have also focused on re-creating that sweetheart relationship long enjoyed between the city and its finest hotel.

  • About the Location +

    The Edgewater is one of the contributing structures within the Mansion Hill Historic District. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the district is composed of some 161 historic buildings constructed at the height of the Gilded Age. Yet, most of the area is a residential neighborhood that currently constitutes the most significant gathering of extravagantly designed Victorian-era homes in all of Madison. Most of the 19th-century structures mostly feature a brilliant blend of Queen Anne and Italianate style architecture, although additional art forms—including Prairie School, Second Empire, and Period Revival—also appeared around the same time. Mansion Hill contains the largest concentration of structures built solely from sandstone mined from local quarries, too. They were also designed by some of the city’s best architectural firms, including its first, Donnel and Kutzbock. They specifically designed a number of buildings that displayed the rarely seen German Romanesque Revival-style architecture, including the manors of James Richardson and Alexander McDonnell. The very first mansion to appear in the locale was that of J.T. Clark in 1846, which debuted upon a parcel of land that lined both Wisconsin Avenue and North Butler Street. Now demolished, it marked the beginning of a construction boom that was to last through the American Civil War. Much of this initial construction unfolded during the 1850s, in which nearly half of the contributing buildings appeared. Among the most outstanding homes developed at the time included the residencies of Lansing Hoyt, Julius T. White, and H.K. Lawrence. By the 1870s, most of the shoreline near North Butler Street and North Park Street contained the beautiful homes of Madison’s social elite.

    Another prolonged episode of development occurred in 1880 and lasted for the next three decades. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior: “Large, high-style homes were built during this period, many of them for the children of the neighborhood’s first residents.” Queen Anne architecture soon proliferated throughout the neighborhood, as the grand manors of Doctor Cornelius Harper, Norwegian businessman Halle Steensland, and the wealthy Brown family came to dominate the landscape. But other architectural styles occurred, as well, including another wave of Period Revival style. Around 1910, the character of Mansion Hill started to lose its purely residential character, as students from the nearby University of Wisconsin began to populate the area. Since the university only offered on-campus housing to female students, men sought temporary accommodations in the neighborhoods located a few blocks away. Contractors thus began erecting a series of apartment complexes in Mansion Hill to accommodate the university’s student body. Some of those new buildings displayed newer architectural forms, including the Art Moderne style that later characterized the façade of The Edgewater. Many of the families that resided in Mansion Hill thus moved away to other areas, including Wingra Park and University Heights. Those newly vacated homes were subsequently converted into multi-family housing units that serviced lower-income families, as well as the city’s transient student population. Nevertheless, the architectural integrity of those earlier 19th century structures remained largely intact, despite the significant alterations to their interiors.

    The origins of Madison itself harken back to 1836, when the city was originally founded by a former federal judge named James Duane Doty. Also a prosperous land speculator, Doty acquired significant landholdings in the region following Wisconsin’s organization into as a federal territory. He subsequently petitioned the territorial legislature to move its capital city to an isthmus he owned between Lakes Mentoda and Monona. Doty also encouraged the politicians to name the settlement after President James Madison, who had recently died earlier in the year. The territorial legislature then met in the new city of Madison over the next decade, overseeing the region’s expansion into an actual state. Businesses finally started arriving in the city shortly after Wisconsin’s admittance into the Union in 1848, which was further augmented by the arrival of the railroads in the early 1850s. Among the earliest industries to get underway within the city limits was food processing, as well as printing and manufacturing. The University of Wisconsin – Madison also contributed greatly to the city’s early economy, too. Madison’s population swelled overnight, growing from just a few hundred people in the 1830, to several thousand two decades later. German, Irish, and Norwegian immigrants constituted the large majority of settlers in the mid-1800s, who were later followed by Italian, Greek, and African Americans. Today, Madison is among the most exciting places to visit in the Midwest, as it is home to countless cultural attractions. For instance, the city contains such renowned landmarks like the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, the Chezen Art museum, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin East. The Wisconsin State Capitol is also an amazing place to see, for it is filled with beautiful marblework and murals inspired by ancient European art forms. Its dome is even just three feet shy of the one that sits atop the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C.


  • About the Architecture +

    When architect Lawrence Monberg first created The Edgewater on behalf of the Quisling family, he used an offshoot of Art Deco architecture known as “Art Moderne” for the general design. Art Moderne is a close relative to the Art Deco-style of architecture that swept through the nation in the 1920s and 1930s. Like its cousin, the form originally emerged from a desire among architects to break with past precedents to find architectural inspiration from historical examples. It specifically abjured the rustic, minimalism of the Arts & Crafts movement that emerged around the same time. Instead, professionals within the field aspired to forge their own design principles. More importantly, they hoped that their ideas would better reflect the technological advances of the modern age. As such, historians today often consider Art Deco and Art Moderne to be a part of the much wider proliferation of cultural “Modernism” that first appeared at the dawn of the 20th century. Art Deco itself as a style that first became popular in 1922, when Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen submitted the first blueprints to feature the form for contest to develop the headquarters of the Chicago Tribune. While his concepts did not win over the judges, they were widely publicized, nonetheless. Architects in both North America and Europe soon raced to copy his format in their own unique ways, giving birth to modern Art Deco architecture. The international acceptance of Art Deco had risen so quickly that it was the central theme to the renowned Exposition des Art Decoratifs in Paris a few years later.

    But as the Great Depression surged throughout the United States in the early 1930s, American architects began to question the ostentatious nature of Art Deco design principles. Before, Art Deco used a sleek, linear appearance that embraced ornate geometric decorations like chevrons and zigzags. But with the financial hardships of the depression constraining the budgets of architects nationwide, they started to “streamline” elements of Art Deco architecture into a more modest form. Called “Art Moderne,” this new variation of Art Deco relied upon an aerodynamic “pure-line” concept that reflected the reigning scientific attitudes about motion. The reason for adopting such ideals reflected the perception that modernity was unfolding at an unprecedented pace. Surfaces became plainer, as such, while the exterior ornamentations were largely abandoned in favor of rounded lines and curves. Stucco served as the primary building ingredient for Art Moderne structures, although smooth-faced stone and polychromatic metals were utilized, too. Art Moderne also typically called for smaller structures, which enabled architects to focus more on quality as opposed to quantity. But the geometric shapes of earlier Art Deco designs still appeared within Art Moderne buildings, albeit in a far simpler form. Towers were also retained to present Art Deco’s earlier emphasis on vertical design elements. This approach to the Art Deco movement remained popular for some time, before giving way to newer architectural aesthetics in the 1960s.

    Lawrence Monberg was among the most prolific architects active in Madison in the early 20th century. Historians today recount that Monberg was a remarkable person with a colorful personality, going as far to state: “Architecture is one of the performing arts, requiring that you convince your clients what is best for them by gentle persuasion, by diplomacy, by performance." Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, he studied the field of architecture in both Paris and the Institute of Technology in Chicago. Monberg and his wife then bought a farm in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and began designing buildings across the state. Monberg’s firm quickly developed a reputation for their versatility, creating blueprints for all sorts of commercial and municipal buildings that ranged from shopping centers to theaters. School buildings soon became the specialty for Monberg, who had designed 30 by the time he relocated his operations to Florida in 1970. Among the most notable examples of Monberg’s work with educational institutions was Jefferson High School, as well as Carthage College in his adopted hometown of Kenosha. He had also worked some with the prominent Quisling family, too, designing such structures like the Madison Quisling Clinic, the Quisling Towers, and The Edgewater during the first half of the 1900s. Monberg eventually died in Florida in 1983.


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Bob Hope, comedian and patron of the United Service Organization (USO). 

    Jimmy Dorsey, big band leader known for such hits like “Tailspin,” “So Many Times,” and “Pennies from Heaven.”

    Elvis Presley, American rock start known as the “King of Rock and Roll.”

    Sammy Davis Jr., actor and singer best remembered as being among the most important figures of the Rat Pack.

    Bob Marley, musician considered by many to be the pioneer of reggae music.

    Liberace, musician known for his extravagant performance in Las Vegas. 

    Prime Minister Jawahariai Nehru of India (1947 – 1964)

    Prime Minister Indira Ghandi of India (1980 – 1984)

    The 14th Dalai Lama


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