When the Pfister opened in 1893, it was the only fire-proof hotel in the city. Having electricity throughout the building was exotic too, as was air conditioning and a thermostat in every guestroom.
Few Midwest hotels are older, and the Pfister’s bygone opulence remains a show-stopper. That’s because Ben Marcus of Marcus Hotels rescued the property from bankruptcy in the 1960s and vowed to restore the elegant interior.
Modern art hotels remove the cookie-cutter approach to decorating, as does masterful Old World craftsmanship and one-of-a-kind artwork at the Pfister. In the 23-story structure are at least 80 pieces of Victorian art; no hotel in the world has a larger collection from this era.
Sculptures, paintings and murals freeze in time snippets of history and emotion. Each tells a little story, from the mystical “Fortune Teller” by Ludwig Vollmar of Germany to the coquettish “Flirtation” by Georges Achille-Fould of France. Both are oils on canvas.
Ten years ago, more lessons in art appreciation emerged after the Pfister’s first artist-in-residence was hired for a one-year stint that includes a work studio and gallery with a wall of windows, near the high-traffic lobby.
The artist works as guests watch, ask questions, buy unique artwork.
Multi-disciplinary artist Rosy Petri moves in during spring 2019. Among her specialties: photo and quilt portraits. She succeeds Stephanie Schultz, a fabric artist who made high-style garments from digitally printed fabric, some bringing paintings to life via fashion.
Don’t miss it: A free phone app points the way to Victorian art on the Pfister’s first, second and seventh floors. The search turns into a scavenger hunt too. Download the app through the Apple store or Google Play.
Follow longtime travel and food writer Mary Bergin of Madison at roadstraveled.com.