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Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co.

Schlitz Waukesha Hotel History

by Mike Reilly Copyright October, 1995

Revised 08/15/2015


A Schlitz Hotel in Waukesha ?

    Yes, for 22 years a little sister to the grand Schlitz Hotel in downtown Milwaukee graced the Five Points intersection of Waukesha.

    The Schlitz Hotel was built on the site of the old American Hotel that had burned down on December 10, 1891. Immediately after the blaze, Joseph J. Hadfield, its last owner, had the property surveyed and subdivided into lots. The property became known as "J.J. Hadfield's Subdivision of the American Hotel Property" as shown on a plat map dated December 24, 1891.

    Matthew L. Kelly and his wife Bridget purchased from Mr. Hadfield and his wife Mary, lots 3 and 4 for $6,000 (ref. Deeds Vol. 77 page 558) on the very day of the property's subdivision. No reason can be given for the purchase other than for speculation or possible development at a later time. Mr. Kelly was, at the time, the owner-proprietor of the Fox River House, a hotel located at 217 Madison Street. On the same day, John Brehm Jr. bought lot 2 from Mr. and Mrs. Hadfield for $4,000.

    As the years went by, there appears to be no attempt at developing the property bought by Mr. Kelly, and then on November 13, 1897 he and Bridget sell it to the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company for $16,000 (Ref. Deeds Vol. 92 page 433). It seems that the Schlitz Company also assumed two outstanding mortgages of $2,400 and $3,600. A Waukesha Freeman news article dated December 30, 1897 says that Mr. M.L. Kelly transferred the Fox River House and the American House Site to Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company for $17,000. It's understood that a fine new building will be raised for a saloon and restaurant.

    The article went on to say that JSBCo.'s purchase was prompted because of the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Co. decision to build the Waukesha line which will enter Main Street in front of the American house property. As time passes, it's expected that it will also pass by the Fox River House.

    Mr. Kelly did work for a period of time prior to the sale as a saloon keeper at 217 W. Main Street which is believed to be a Schlitz owned or leased saloon. Later on, one Mathias J. Wolf is listed as proprietor at this address and he is also the Schlitz agent in Waukesha. This may be how Mr. Kelly made contact with the JSBCo. [Editor-As a side note, in the January 13, 1898 edition of the Freeman, Mr. Kelly was brought up before the municipal court on a charge of violating the 12 o'clock ordinance regarding the closing of saloons.]

    The Waukesha Freeman ran an article on January 20, 1898 describing the new hotel. The lumber comes from lumber yards of Palmetier & Abeil. An effort was made by the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. to secure the adjoining Brehm property (lot 2, sale never occurred). The building, 22 x 120 ft long will contain office, bar, dining room, kitchen, parlor, and 22 guest rooms of good size. The building will be three stories high and made of the very best materials. The building contract is held by Henry Minderman of Milwaukee and August Dieman of Waukesha. It should be ready in early summer (of 1898) and and be run as an European hotel. It was also noted that many people are attracted to the excavation site, such activity as not seen since the American Hotel burned down.

    The hotel construction was not without it problems. On February 17, 1898, Oscar Fischer, a Milwaukee trade union representative complained about Mr. Dieman's men not being union and wanted them replaced. Mr. Dieman wouldn't comply, though Mr. Minderman said he would have to comply. The parties met at THE SCHLITZ saloon, corner of Broadway and Clinton streets. This saloon is sometimes confused with the hotel since it did offer a large buffet for its customers. William Grotjan, a Schlitz agent, and the Goerke brothers were at different times proprietors of the business.

    Apparently any arrangement that may have been worked out didn't satisfy everyone because on March 17, 1898 Mr. Fischer is convicted in municipal court of intimidating the Waukesha carpenters. He induced them to quit so that union men from Milwaukee might be imported. The trial lasted three days with Mr. Fischer seeking an appeal. It's not known whether he faced any jail sentence or was let go but on April 20, 1898 union carpenters walked off the job because a non-union carpenter was working on the building. The non-union carpenter was discharged and the union men resumed their work.

    On March 3, 1898, the Freeman notes that the hotel walls have reached their full height and later on March the 10th, the new Schlitz has been fully enclosed (the roof is on). The finished structure promises to add materially to the attraction of the locality. It was also reported that the Brehm brothers are preparing to erect a building adjacent to the Schlitz.

Though no news of the Schlitz's opening could be found in the Freeman, it is believed they did open in the summer of 1898 with George Foran and his wife as proprietors.  The address was 340 Main Street or simply described as being at the corner of Broadway and Main Street with a telephone number of #109. The Hotel provided a Sampling room, musicals in the Drawing rooms, and carriage excursions to the Waukesha Beach resort on Pewaukee Lake with Mrs. Foran as hostess. Mr. Foran was known to host fishing trips to the lake with many patrons. The hotel also boasted a new livery stable outback that provided the best in care for a lodger's horse and carriage. William "Billy" Brown, the genial clerk, was considered a favorite by guests. Because of his good looks, the guests compared him to the god Apollo.  Euchre card parties were nightly occurrences at the hotel and prizes were awarded in some novel way. The hotel room rates were $2.00 per day.  The Hotel also boasted a new livery stable outback that provided the best in care for a lodger's horse and carriage. The popularity and use of the stables didn't last very long with the startup of the trolley system that linked Waukesha with the Waukesha Beach resort.

    On January 12, 1899, the Waukesha Freeman published a summary of the previous year's building activity. The Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. was listed with the following building expenditures;

Saloon, West Waukesha, $2,000

Bottling House, $1,500

Schlitz Hotel, $5,000

Saloon, South St., $800

    The article didn't elaborate on what the $5,000 was spent for, if it was for the building itself or it included the decorations and furnishings inside.

A slightly different picture of the hotel in 1914

    In 1903, Charles W. Brown became the new hotel manager. Mr. Brown having much hotel experience in Ohio and Iowa extensively refitted the Schlitz throughout. The room rates continued to remain the same at $2.00 per day but the telephone number changed to 137. In Resorts Chats magazine, Mr. Brown advertised baths and steam heat with a table (menu) unsurpassed. He further advertised that Schlitz Atlas Brew was exclusively on tap at the hotel.

    After Mr. Brown left the Schlitz in 1911 to manage the Waukesha Moor Bath Hotel, a succession of managers operated it. From 1911-12, Walter F. Riebe,1913-18 George F. Butterfield held the position, 1919 George Polfuss managed it at which time the address changed to 292 W. Main Street, and finally in 1921, J.A. McNamara is listed in the City Directory as proprietor.

    On April 15, 1920, probably due to the pressures of Prohibition and taxation, the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company quit-claim deeded the Schlitz Hotel property over to Robert A. Uihlein Sr. for the sum of $1.00 (Ref. Deeds Vol. 176 page 271). In July of 1921, it was announced that the Schlitz Hotel would be no more and the Waukesha Freeman noted a real need for a commercial hotel establishment. The following year, in November 1922, the Schlitz was renamed the Commercial Hotel and Cafeteria. The cafeteria, the last word in modern meal service, was installed about December 15th after extensive improvements. City heat keeps the place toasting warm and several suites with baths are included among the twenty-two guest rooms.

    The Commercial existed until 1927 when it was renamed the Five-Points Hotel. In 1928, January 3rd, Robert A. and Mary I. Uihlein quit-claim deeded the former Schlitz Hotel property to the Schlitz Realty Corporation for $1.00 (Ref. Deeds Vol. 211 page 183). Later that year on August 24th, the Schlitz Realty Corp sold the property to Sam Friedman (Ref. Deeds Vol. 215 page 417).

    Mr. Friedman owned a number of properties in downtown Waukesha and continued to operate the hotel as the Five-Points until 1931 when it became the Butterfield Hotel. In 1934, Mr. Friedman renamed it the Frederick Hotel and moved his men's clothing business from across the street into the first floor of the building. The clothing business's address was 294 W. Main Street and the hotel above was 292. Approximately 1951-52, the hotel became known (and still is) as the Friedman Apartments.

    The first floor of the building was run as Friedman's Clothes Shop up to about 1967 when in 1968 through 1969 it became Stern's Campus Corner, offering women's clothing. After Stern's a variety of shops and restaurants have operated there;

1970-74 Fab-N-Trim, a yards goods store

1975 Vacant

1976-77 Family Arcade Pool Hall

1978 Vacant

1979 Oak Hill Originals, hand crafted gifts, cards, and jewelry

1980 Vacant

1981 Kringle Nosh Deli & Restaurant

1982-86 Di Stefano's Pizza

1987 Arturo's Italian-American Restaurant

1988-91 Pavilion Bistro & Restaurant

1992 Country Stenzel & Gift Shoppe

1993 Above added Country Cafe and Catering By Chef James

July '94-present Bits of Britain and a Wee Bit More

    In 1977 Sam Friedman died and the following year, on April 18th, the building was sold to Richard A. and Fern F. Berentsen (Ref. Deeds Vol. 319, page 313) who remain the current owners.

    The story of the Schlitz Hotel won't end with this article, the building will continue to serve the Waukesha downtown area for many more years to come. Though it will continue to stand, few people will actually know of its beginnings and how several of the great Milwaukee breweries helped shaped the surrounding communities by building hotels and saloons. For Waukesha county residents there are at least two other brewery hotels that were built in the area about the same time, the Oconomowoc Schlitz Hotel at Collins St. ,N.E. corner of South Main. and the hotel that Capt. Pabst built in Nashotah across from the Nashotah Tavern, that one Ira Bigelow operated. Many more interesting stories can probably be found about the events that occurred at the Schlitz Hotel over its lifetime and the author would be happy to receive any further information readers may find on the subject.

    The  author is both a historian of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company and a collector of its beer tap markers, mugs & steins, toy box cars, and pins & buttons. The author wishes to dedicate this first article of his to the memory of Ruth Schmidt, a grandmother to him through marriage, who's many stories of her growing up in rural Wisconsin and later of life in the town of Merton have provided endless hours of reading pleasure.

  (Note: We are not affiliated with the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co. or endorsed by them. Any Schlitz trademarks displayed, or  brands mentioned are the sole ownership of the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co.)

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