At one point, Guido Pfister was director of the Milwaukee and Northern R.R. Co., the Milwaukee Merchandise Insurance Co. and the Northwestern National Insurance Co., as well as president of the German Exchange Bank. Charles Pfister, following in his father’s entrepreneurial footsteps, took over the tanning company upon his father’s death in 1889, becoming treasurer and then president.
Besides owning the Pfister Hotel and being president of Pfister and Vogel Leather Co., Charles pursued many other investment and political interests. Charles spent much of his newly acquired wealth in politics, financially backing local and state candidates who were against the popular governor of Wisconsin, Robert La Follette.
After politics came media endeavors. Charles bought the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1900. He served as publisher of the newspaper for 24 years, until he sold it to media giant William Randolph Hearst, who, as Charles did, used the power of the paper for political—often anti-progressive—discourse.
In 1962, the Pfister Hotel was sold to Ben Marcus, who renovated the then-aging hotel. In addition to renovations, a 23rd-story guest floor was added. Following these renovations, the Pfister Hotel started to grow its legacy of accommodating famous celebrities and politicians.
Today, the Pfister Hotel continues to dazzle and delight those who step inside its doors. The hotel now holds a very significant Victorian art collection and annually hosts artists-in-residence. Besides being known for its history—the Pfister is on the list of Historic Hotels of America—the hotel can also boast being a member of the elite Preferred Hotels and Resorts Worldwide group and a winner of the AAA Four Diamond Award.
Next time you pass the Pfister Hotel or see its miniature doors in the “Streets of Old Milwaukee” exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum, recall the history of one of Milwaukee’s most luxurious traditions.