Considered Wisconsin’s Grand Dame hotel, the American Club—nestled in the company town of Kohler—celebrated its one hundredth birthday this past August. As any visitor knows, this overnight retreat built in 1918 (initially as lodging for the Kohler Co.’s workers) is a royal experience, from the uniformed bellmen to the masseuses in the Kohler Waters Spa next door. Inside the red-brick exterior lies oak paneling and woodwork, and gorgeous brass furniture. Steel elevator doors emblazoned with a big “W” that were once in the Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Madison pay homage to Walter J. Kohler, the state’s 26th governor. Hung in each guest room is a portrait of a famous American, from Ernest Hemingway to John James Audubon.

Food and drink festivities linked to the centennial celebration include special one hundredth anniversary cocktails at The Winery Bar and a seven-course tasting menu at the luxe Immigrant Restaurant (through November). Each course is inspired by a different ethnic group (from Danish to Normandy) that has worked for the plumbing manufacturer since its start in 1873. In that year, John Michael Kohler—an Austrian immigrant who arrived in America as a 10-year-old—started Kohler Co., and it’s been in the family ever since.

There are several reasons to make a trip to the American Club this fall and winter. Fresh off a six-month renovation, there are 13 new treatment rooms at Kohler Waters Spa and also new multi-room bedroom suites at the Inn on Woodlake, which falls under the Kohler umbrella and is located one block away.

Related to the centennial celebration, a new sculpture at the American Club by artist-in-residence Stephen Paul Day features a boy draped in an American flag, an homage to John Michael Kohler. It’s crafted out of cast iron made in Kohler’s factory, which still operates across the street. History buffs can take a historic tour of the property, led daily at 2 p.m. by historians and concierges. A new history exhibit is also in the American Club library, and posters of historic facts are sprinkled throughout the property for a self-guided tour. Also of note: tours of the factory across the street are led by retired workers and provide an authentic glimpse into what it’s like to work for this storied manufacturer.

Photography provided by Kohler Co.  


This article originally appeared in the 2018 fall/winter issue of Experience Wisconsin magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article.

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Author

Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer who calls Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood home.

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