Brian Jacobson
Vantage Point

From The Pfister Hotel

At dusk, the 23rd floor of the Pfister Hotel tower offers beautiful views of a changing city

By - Nov 13th, 2014 01:47 pm
View from the Pfister Hotel. Photo by Brian Jacobson.

View from the Pfister Hotel. Photo by Brian Jacobson.

I wanted the last location of this year’s Vantage Point series to be something special. So I made plans to shoot from the Blu cocktail lounge on the 23rd floor of the historic Pfister Hotel. The plan was also to shoot around dusk, as the early glow of the Wisconsin Gaslight just one block away would be fantastic.

Around the time I arrived and bar/lobby manager Nicholas Herrera joined me, quite a throng of conventioneers and hotel guests were lobbying for the last table near the curved picture windows.  We tried the pool room, but the awkward angle to the gaslight and the newly joined children splashing around scared us away.

“Do you want to go up on the roof?” Herrera asked.

The Pfister Hotel. Photo by Brian Jacobson.

The Pfister Hotel. Photo by Brian Jacobson.

It was a funny moment, as I had lobbied building owners and property management for months to get top-deck access for their view of the cityscape. In this case, I had not asked and yet here we were up on the circular crown.

This round tower was an addition built just north of the original structure and commissioned by Ben D. Marcus in 1963. There have been many remodels of the various rooms and lobby since opening in 1893—just about the only original interior parts left are the legendary Italian lions and the word “SALVE” (Italian formal word for “Hello”). The top floor’s 1967 nightclub Crown Room became the 1981 La Playa disco-like bar, which in 2000 morphed into Blu.  By the time this has published, Afternoon Tea service will have started a new season on the top floor environs.

In addition to the pool, there is also the adjacent “Pfister Club Lounge,” a guest amenity library and snack room with charging stations at every bar table and a ghostly TV built into the fireplace mantle. Rounding out the top is “Twenty 3,” an executive board room with a high-tech video conferencing wall.

There was a private rooftop club planned above the Pfister’s then eight-story height in late 1961, accessed by a private elevator onto a 25,000 foot space enclosed by 12-foot glass walls. It would have included a cocktail lounge, dining on multi-levels, an open hearth steak room and two card-playing rooms. It was these sorts of management ideas by a group of New York investors that soon led to Marcus purchasing and restoring the Pfister Hotel the next year.

In 2014, there are honeybee boxes on the roof being kept by Pfister’s Executive Chef Brian Frakes. There is also a line of herb plants drying out of season, a lot of small satellite dishes and HVAC systems, and one helluva view.

To the direct west, the backside of the Wisconsin Telephone Company building shows off its finials and bridge-like conference room. There are plenty of bucket list locations on view here that will have to wait until springtime for me to inquire about ascending: City Hall’s two bell towers, the castle-like tower on the Federal Building, the open Lake Michigan views from University Tower, and a few more heights to the south. (I wonder what the city looks like from the crow’s nest of an actual freighter?)

I can also look down on many of the elevated places I have been this year and in previous years—more on that next week. I silently thank those of you who have agreed to help with my little adventure, and I am making plans for an April Gallery Night show if I can raise funds for prints and a book. The sun has set now and the deep blue of the gaslight grows brighter. “No change in view,” as the old poem goes.

View From the Vantage Point

About the “Vantage Point” Series

Art photographer and journalist Brian Jacobson has always sought out the higher viewpoints when it came to his urban cityscape photographs. Much like architectural photographers at the turn of the 20th-century, there is a different feel and scope to buildings and street patterns as seen from the rooftops, high hills and bridges in Milwaukee. His photo series tries to see what is typically unseen by the pedestrian.

One thought on “Vantage Point: From The Pfister Hotel”

  1. Nikolai says:

    I look very much forward to Brian’s vantage point series. Great job and keep it up.

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