The Hilton Garden Inn Milwaukee Downtown is a 127-room hotel in Milwaukee’s Juneau Town neighborhood. The building was formerly known as the Loyalty Building (after former tenant & insurance company the Loyalty Group). It was originally built as the third headquarters for Northwestern Mutual until the company moved to their current home on E. Wisconsin Ave in 1914. The building has also been referred to as the 611 North Broadway Building and originally as the New Insurance Building and later the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company Home Office.
The building his protected by Milwaukee’s historic preservation ordinance as it is one of many buildings in the East Side Commercial Historic District (designated November 17th, 1987). It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places (March 20th, 1973) The site was previously home to the Hewhall House Hotel, which was destroyed by a fire in 1883. The building has an atrium in its center that runs the full height of the building.
The hotel opened in November of 2012, with the building originally opening in 1886. The architect for the hotel conversion was Kahler Slater. The construction management firm was Stevens Construction Corp.
Hotel developer First Hospitality Group acquired the building (through affiliate First MKD) on March 11th, 2011 for $1.5 million. It had previously been sold in 2006 for $3,317,500. First Hospitality also acquired the Mackie Building, with its well-known Grain Exchange Room, located across Michigan St. at the same time. The Grain Exchange Room serves as the banquet space for the hotel.
The conversion cost between $18 to $20 million and was financed with a bank loan and federal historic preservation tax credits. Renovations risked being delayed when two tenants, Michigan Street Diner and dentist David Paris, refused to accept offers for lease buyouts. An agreement was eventually reached with Michigan Street Diner so the project could move forward.
Prior to its use as a hotel, the building was a multi-tenant office building. As currently configured the building includes two retail spaces.
Northwestern Mutual considered a design from Edward Townsend Mix as well as Spencer Beman’s before selecting Beman.
According to the UWM Department of Geosciences…
Beman selected two medium-grain gray granites from Maine, the Hallowell and Fox Island Granites, for the lower parts of the building exterior. Fox Island granite came from Vinalhaven Island, the southern of two islands in Penobscot Bay that together are called the Fox Islands. First opened in 1826, and operating through the late 19th century, the quarries on Vinalhaven Island were among the leading suppliers of New England granites. Fox Island granite was used for construction of the Brooklyn Bridge (John and Washington Roebling; 1869-1883) and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Guy Lowell; 1907-1909). The granite quarries at Hallowell were found on the west side of the Kennebec River, just south of Augusta, the state capital. Hallowell granite was used in the construction of the Maine state capitol in 1832, of which Charles Bulfinch of Boston was the architect.
The top four floors are covered in Indiana limestone.
On January 28, 1885, Northwestern Mutual’s Executive Committee recommended to the Board of Trustees that a new home office be erected, and the firm’s plans were made public in the Evening Wisconsin and Milwaukee Sentinel on January 29 and 30, respectively. Title to the property at Broadway and Michigan-lots 4, 5, and 6 of Block 8 in the Third Ward-was legally transferred to Northwestern Mutual from the Newhall House Stock Company on February 4. The purchase price was $90,000. On April 17 the company applied for a permit to build. The two month lapse between acquisition of the lots and application for the permit came about, in large part, because of a bill pending before the Wisconsin legislature in February and March 1885. Introduced by Assemblyman Henry J. Goddard of Chippewa Falls, the bill was designed expressly to prevent construction of the new block, and while its defeat was never in doubt, the company delayed signing contracts until the issue was resolved. By the end of April 1885, the last vestiges of the Newhall House were being removed from the site, and the contract for furnishing and setting the granite walls of basement and first story had been let. By April of the following year Northwestern Mutual’s legal department had moved into the “New Insurance Building,” as the press called it, with other departments following suit by May 1. The first policy was issued from the new home office on July 19, the first Board of Trustees meeting held there the next day; and on the following day, July 21, 1886, the building was dedicated. The City of Milwaukee and State of Wisconsin published in 1888 reports that block and lots had cost $725,000. Initially, the insurance company occupied only the second floor, with all other rooms and suites made available for rental; and by June 1887, at the latest, all these had been leased. Among the early tenants were the Milwaukee Art School, the National Exchange Bank (southeast corner, first floor), Angus Smith and Company (southeast comer, third story), the Lake Shore and Western Railway (suite on the fourth floor), and West and Meyers Insurance (rooms on the first story).
From Guides to Historic Milwaukee: Juneautown Walking Tour by Mary Ellen Pagel and Virginia Palmer (1965)…
Outgrowing their Neo-Gothic offices at Broadway and Wisconsin Avenue, the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company constructed its second home office on this site, left vacant three years earlier by the tragic Newhall House fire. It was known as the New Insurance Building until the company’s further expansion made necessary the construction of the present home office on East Wisconsin Avenue in 1912. In the lobby of 611 North Broadway one sees mosaic floors, marble columns, and bronze balustrades-all relics of an era when the emphasis was not on functional efficiency. The low round arches and roughly hewn masonry of the exterior announce its designer’s familiarity with the buildings of H. H. Richardson. The versatile Mix had also drawn the plans for Northwestern Mutual’s earlier, Neo-Gothic office building completed in 1870 and razed in 1965.
- UWM Library Historic Photo – 1895
- Milwaukee Public Library historic building photo
- Library of Congress photos
- OldMilwaukee.net Building Page
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – “Work begins on Hilton Garden Inn downtown Milwaukee” – December 6th, 2011 – Tom Daykin
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – “Foreclosure suit targets Loyalty Building hotel conversion” – September 2nd, 2011 – Tom Daykin
- Business Journal Serving Greater Milwaukee – “Loyalty building sold to developer” – March 13th, 2011 – Sean Ryan
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – “Last Day at the Loyalty Building” – August 30th, 2011 – Diane Bacha
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – “Proposal calls for converting downtown building to hotel” – October 13th, 2010 – Tom Daykin
- Aug 13th, 2014 by Jeff Beutner
- Jan 8th, 2014 by Michael Horne
- May 8th, 2013 by Michael Horne
- Jan 30th, 2013 by Sinead Eby
- Nov 16th, 2012 by Urban Milwaukee
- Nov 9th, 2012 by Dave Reid