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Documentary Explores Luxury, History of Iconic Pfister Hotel

Paul Sabelman, flickr

Though the number of hotels and hotel rooms in downtown Milwaukee is growing, one hotel has remained front and center.

The Pfister Hotel endures as the city's iconic hotel, despite a new Marriott, a Hilton Garden Inn, and Fairfield all having opened nearby.

The 120-year-old luxury hotel, which is only a stone's throw from the lakefront on Wisconsin Avenue, is the focus of a half-hour behind-the-scenes documentary premiering on Milwaukee Public Television on October 31st.

Host and producer Mark Siegrist says he was inspired to create Inside the Pfister: A Milwaukee Hotel Icon while covering stories for Channel 12.

“It’s Milwaukee at its finest,” Siegrist says. “The whole concept back at the turn of the century was to build the Pfister Hotel as a gateway to Milwaukee. And at the same time, Milwaukeeans are very, very welcome in its lobby.”

The Pfister replaced as the city's premiere hotel the Newhall House, which was destroyed in a tragic fire in 1883 that killed 90 people. Milwaukee’s civic leadership immediately began plans to replace the Newhall House because they needed a place to show off the relatively new city.

Guido Pfister fronted the money and ten years after the Newhall fire, the building was completed. Pfister passed away during construction, but his children, Charles and Louise, carried out his plans to the end.

In 1962, the hotel was facing the wrecking ball when it was saved by Ben Marcus, who acquired the building to restore its original beauty.

Since its salvation and restoration, the Pfister has gained an international reputation for being a high-quality meeting place and a flagship and center for hospitality.

Watch the documentary trailer below.