This Romanesque Revival hotel represented the pinnacle of elegance and comfort when it opened in 1893, and it remains one of the nation’s finest Victorian-era hostelries. Local building materials make this sizable edifice distinctive. Massive, rock-faced blocks of Milwaukee County limestone sheathe the first three stories. The upper five floors are clad in Milwaukee’s cream brick with buff-colored terra-cotta trim. Different window forms including tall arched rows and bay windows add variety and complexity to the exterior. The resulting cheerful building contrasts with the dignified related Richardsonian Romanesque Federal Building (MI18). Since its construction, the Pfister’s exterior has changed very little, except for the large parking garage and cylindrical tower wing, with its bay windows and faceted piers, added in 1965 at the rear (north) side of the building.
Perhaps the hotel’s finest architectural feature is its lofty lobby, elegantly finished with marble wainscoting, cast-iron railings, and a fine barrel-vaulted plaster ceiling featuring splendid paintings (modern re-creations). Walking through the lobby and down the hallways to their luxurious rooms, patrons pass the hotel’s extensive collection of nineteenth-century oil paintings.
Across the street, the Milwaukee Club (1873), at 706 N. Jefferson Street, offers Edward Townsend Mix’s stately red brick and sandstone Queen Anne design.