The Pfister Hotel, Wisconsin’s First Palace, Celebrates 120 Years

Jay Filter is an award winning writer and photographer from Whitefish Bay.

One hundred and twenty years ago, way back when Grover Cleveland ran the country, an ambitious, entrepreneurial German immigrant had a laudable vision: create an elegant, charming, and most importantly, world-class hotel to become the pride of his beloved adopted home, Milwaukee.

Enlisting the estimable talents of renowned architect Henry Koch (Milwaukee City Hall, UW’s Science Hall, and Milwaukee’s Turner Hall), a visionary Guido Pfister vowed that no expense would be spared in creating his Palace for the People.

Situated mere blocks from both the shore of Lake Michigan and the banks of the Milwaukee River, the brand-spanking-new Pfister Hotel would feature luxurious accommodations, sophisticated dining, a barber shop and beauty salon, billiards room, cigar parlor, resplendent decor, impeccable service, and an art collection so valuable it surpassed the cost of the hotel itself 

Regrettably, Pfister passed away before he could watch his magnificent dream hotel go from blueprint to gold leaf. That mission instead, would become the passionate calling for his son Charles Pfister and daughter Louise Vogel.

Opened in 1893, the Pfister stood proud as one of the foremost hotels in the United States, just as it does today. Subsequent decades would welcome nearly every US president since McKinley, plus heads of state, global dignitaries, countless Hollywood, Broadway and celebrity elite, thousands of sports figures, and tens of thousands of jet-setters, globetrotters, conventioneers, wedding guests, honeymooners, family vacationers and wide-eyed tourists from around the world.

Under the thoughtful ownership of the Marcus family, the past five decades have brought new additions, noteworthy amenity and comfort enhancements, celebrated dining and entertainment offerings, as well as expansion of the hotel’s preeminent servicing. All the while, diligently and affectionately abiding the uncompromising standards that the Pfister family so lovingly set forth way back in the 19th century.

Jay Filter is an award-winning writer and photographer from Whitefish Bay. All photos courtesy of Jay Filter. You can see his work at:

This entry was posted in Places to Stay, Restaurants, Spas, Featured Activities & Attractions, City Getaways