It’s been more than a decade since The Iron Horse Hotel first opened its doors in a former mattress factory turned cold storage in Milwaukee’s emerging Walker’s Point neighborhood. And as the hotel prepares for its first summer of events and gatherings since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it’s clear why The Iron Horse Hotel is still the country’s top boutique hotel destination geared for business travelers and motorcycle enthusiasts alike.
“We had a vision to create a hotel that was distinctly Milwaukee and one that catered in every way to the motorcycle rider and the business and leisure traveler,” says Tim Dixon, hotel developer and owner. “It had to be authentic, so we worked with everyone from focus groups of riders to corporate business travelers. And in the end, we built something that is timeless.”
The hotel boasts a famously social scene where locals and travelers, bikers and business travelers all converge to enjoy a bevy of bar and dining options — and a well-known lineup of ongoing events. In its home city of Milwaukee and beyond, the hotel has become known for its costumed Repeal of Prohibition Party, its well-loved Thursday Bike Nights and the wildly popular Kentucky Derby Party, which has been known to sell out all the bourbon in the house to thousands of attendees. As hotel staff looks ahead to late 2021 and early 2022, they are more than encouraged these events will return with a bang!
Inspired by its industrial roots
Distinct for its original Cream City brick and heavy timber post-and-beam construction, The Iron Horse Hotel was a pioneer for its industrial chic decor. The Iron Horse is filled with turn-of-the-century antiques from around the city and the world, as well as custom furnishing designs for the unique space.
The hotel lobby interiors capture the essence of the American Industrial era. Custom chandeliers feature motorcycle gears and throwing knives while custom apothecary cabinets are filled with curiosities such as a leather railroad mailbag, antique toy trains and motorcycles, railroad lights and even handmade gifts left by guests of the hotel.
A growing collection of rugged original art
Each step of the hotel is designed to tell a story, such as the guestroom corridor carpets inspired by safari motifs that were famous at the turn of the century when Teddy Roosevelt began going on African safaris. With local art a hallmark of the property, rooms feature fine art photography of Milwaukee women by artist and Milwaukee native, Charles Dwyer, enlarged to mural size and hand-embellished by the artist. Dwyer also created the renowned “Americana Flag” — created out of hand-painted denim jeans — that hangs in the hotel lobby and was refurbished in 2020. Over the past 10 years, more and more artwork has been added to the property, including an entire collection of rare superhero works by the late artist Jerry Pfeil on display in Branded Bar.
A motorcycle mecca for riders and non-riders
As the ultimate destination for motorcycle enthusiasts and their trusty iron steeds, The Iron Horse Hotel features several top-notch rider amenities including covered motorcycle parking; custom bell carts with drawers for transporting saddle bag contents; an on-site bike wash; an on-call bike repairman; road trip maps; and in-room storage areas for boots, helmets and heavy riding leathers.
While it’s estimated that only 10 percent of the hotel’s guests arrive on two wheels, according to Dixon, “the riders are 90 percent of the atmosphere.”
Between the legendary food and beverage outlets, the popular dog-friendly amenities and unmatched all-Milwaukee atmosphere, The Iron Horse Hotel is ready to roar into summer 2021 and beyond. Are you coming along for the ride?