The Pfister Hotel

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Discover The Pfister Hotel, a historic gem in downtown Milwaukee, which has been offering fine hospitality since its opening in 1893.

A member of Historic Hotels of America since 1994, The Pfister Hotel was constructed at a time when the United States was defined by great economic prosperity, industrial expansion, and significant social reform. The Pfister Hotel was the specific vision of businessman Guido Pfister and his son, Charles, quickly becoming the “Grand Hotel of the West” upon its grand debut in the late 19th century. Before getting into the hospitality business, Guido Pfister, a German immigrant, originally made a fortune when he began his tanning company in Milwaukee, the “Guido Pfister Tanning Co.” (He later renamed it to Pfister and Vogel Leather Co.”) For a number of years, Pfister's tannery was known as one of the largest leather operations in the Midwest.

Quickly becoming esteemed successful entrepreneurs in the Midwest, Guido and Charles Pfister began their endeavor in the hospitality industry with a vision to create a luxury hotel. The particularly hoped that it would appeal to the many businessmen and politicians that had regularly visited Milwaukee during its Gilded Age economic boom. Opened in 1893, The Pfister Hotel was designed by architect Henry C. Koch in a Romanesque Revival architectural style. The Pfisters has also spared no expense to create the beautiful structure, spending over $1 million throughout the course of the project. The new downtown hotel boasted groundbreaking features, such as fireproofing, electricity, and thermostat controls in every guestroom, instantly establishing a reputation for unrivalled luxury. In addition to its then-modern amenities, The Pfister Hotel afforded a formal dining room, a gentleman's lounge with a private bar, and two billiard rooms, one each for women and men. An avid art collector, Charles Pfister even displayed much of his collection throughout The Pfister, which remains as the largest hotel collection of Victorian art.

At the height of Prohibition in 1926, Charles opened the modest pub, “English Room,” where he concocted a house specialty he named “Indian Punch.” Indian Punch would eventually build a huge following, incentivizing Pfister to bottle it for nationwide consumption. Later, in the 1950s, a part of the lobby was sectioned off to establish “The Columns,” a Roman-themed lounge with a centurion doorman and toga-clad waitresses. The Columns was later renamed “Cafe Ole,” and remained in operation until the lobby was restored to its original grandeur in 1993. Today, the Lobby Lounge offers a relaxing and classic social setting reminiscent and acknowledging the historic social scene Charles Pfister conceived. In 1962, The Pfister was purchased by Ben Marcus with extensive plans to restore the structure to highlight its original glory and expand the hotel, including a new 23-story guestroom tower to provide the latest in luxurious accommodations. The Pfister Hotel remains a historic gem in downtown Milwaukee offering fine hospitality rich in heritage, spoken with high regard by dignitaries and celebrated guests.

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