The Iron Horse Hotel represents the transformation of a 100-year-old warehouse into a modern luxury boutique hotel. In 1907, William Berger commissioned the distinguished Milwaukee architectural firm of Buemming and Dick to build the warehouse for the Berger Bedding Company. The location on the railroad offered excellent shipping facilities. The building was divided into the factory (today’s hotel) and the warehouse (Smyth, located behind the building’s firewall). The bedding company remained until 1927 when it became the Molitor Box Company, after a purchase by George Molitor Hormuth. In 1955, it became cold storage until Tim Dixon of Dixon Development LLC purchased it in 2005. The name of The Iron Horse Hotel reflects the duality of our unique location. Native Americans referred to the train as the “iron horse” as it sped through the prairies.
Today, the hotel remains nestled along an historic yet active railroad. Located at the origination and termination point of the tracks means that The Iron Horse Hotel guest is treated to the slow chug of freight cars a few times each day. Today’s pop culture also refers to the motorcycle as the modern iron horse, a name befitting our location near the Harley-Davidson Museum, a monumental achievement by this Milwaukee-based manufacturer. After the name was chosen, it was discovered that the building’s century-old distinct carved capitals serendipitously resembled an “I” in the shape of a horse head and an “H.” The icon was born and now subtly graces areas of the hotel.
The Iron Horse Hotel is part of an urban revitalization that integrates irreplaceable historic architecture with the latest in luxury amenities, technology and environmental sustainability – from the re-use of the building and reclaimed materials for design elements to the ample covered motorcycle parking that encourages use of more fuel-efficient transportation. We are proud of our Travel Green Wisconsin partners Great Lakes Distillery, Lakefront Brewery, Harley-Davidson Museum, Lake Express High Speed Ferry, Miller Park and many more.
A love of buildings is what drew The Iron Horse Hotel owner Tim Dixon to purchase the historic warehouse. A carpenter by trade, Dixon’s vision was to capture the distinct architecture and heavy timber construction of the original building, located along the river in Milwaukee’s historic tannery district. As a result, The Iron Horse Hotel is a perfect fusion of industrial-era form and modern-day function.
Much of the original building is still intact, including Hemlock and heart Pine posts and beams and exposed Cream City brick walls and fire doors, resulting in a rugged design and loft-style atmosphere. To transform the interiors into a modern luxury hotel, dramatic finishes and sophisticated forms have been paired with authentic materials to create a strong yet inviting space – encouraging discovery and social gathering throughout the hotel. Vintage items from as far away as London and as close as the hotel’s neighborhood antique shops can be found throughout the property, along with custom chandeliers, original artwork by Milwaukee artists and industrial decorative relics.
Meeting the needs of business travelers and motorcycle enthusiasts alike forced design creativity. Many of the concepts arose from focus groups of “road warriors” of both the briefcase and biker persuasions, such as rugged wood floors that are welcoming to both high heels and riding boots, and chic yet durable furniture, able to withstand heavy zippers and buckles yet cool and refined for business attire. In the end, The Iron Horse Hotel pays homage to the architecture of the American Industrial era while offering the features and amenities relevant for today’s savvy business and leisure traveler.