Tim Dixon was a carpenter and developer, not a hotelier, when he bought a century-old brick building alongside the railroad tracks in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point district. Just after he closed on the former bedding factory and warehouse, construction of the neighboring Harley-Davidson Museum was announced.
That helped Dixon determine the direction for his Iron Horse Hotel: a 100-room luxury boutique property designed for both the business traveler and upscale motorcycle enthusiast.
“Everything we did from that moment on was about duality,” he says about the “urban resort” that welcomes suits and high heels, and leather and dirty buckle boots. Guests are, Dixon describes, “The same demographic. Same people, different time of day.”
A rich mix of antiques, custom furnishings and original art complement the loft-like exposed brick walls, heavy post-and beam construction and industrial finishes. A massive American flag made from 32-1/2 pairs of blue jeans hangs in the main gathering space, where worn leather sofas, heavy wood tables, patterned rugs and upholstered chairs invite lounging. In the summer months The Yard is a popular outdoor spot for casual meals and beverages by the fire pit.
There’s motorcycle parking, a self-service bike wash and, for those properly licensed, on-site motorcycle rentals.
Four types of guest rooms vary in size but have common amenities like spacious bathrooms with rain showers, ultra-comfy beds, heavy-duty wall hooks for hanging leathers and helmets, and a sturdy bench for pulling off your boots (also handy for stashing luggage).
Our room came with a view of the city skyline and soon, the rumble of an iron horse passing by on tracks seemingly inches from the building. At any other hotel the occasional trains would be an annoyance. At the Iron Horse, well, they’re just a part of the namesake vibe. I placed the “Idling…Do Not Disturb” sign on the outer doorknob.
Iron Horse Hotel
500 W. Florida St., Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Wide range of rates from around $219 depending on date and room size. Specials and packages available. Ask about room location if you think you’ll be bothered by the sound of passing trains.
Terrific breakfast in the Library, high end dining at Smyth (we did not partake), friendly service at Branded, the lobby bar.
Nearby in the Walker’s Point Neighborhood
We walked to La Fuente, a popular spot for reliable Mexican dishes, seafood and vegetarian options. Famous for Margaritas, Tequila and Mexican beer selections. If the weather’s good choose to eat in the courtyard with tiled fountain.
Great Lakes Distillery makes small batches of handcrafted vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, absinthe and other spirits. Tours are free; a flight of five samples is $5.