It’s enough to make Jay Gatsby howl. The Ambassador Hotel, brazen and bold on the city’s near west side, is a beacon of the past that tempts and treats guests looking for 1920s era revelry and charm.
The hotel’s iconic neon rooftop sign shines as bright today as it did when it was constructed in 1928. Originally designed by Milwaukee architects Urban Peacock and Armin Frank, the hotel’s façade boasts one of Milwaukee’s finest examples of Art Deco architecture. But the Ambassador only recently found its way back onto the Milwaukee scene. In the 1970s and 80s, the neighborhood and hotel both fell on disrepair. In fact, in 1987, hotel guest and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer committed his second of 17 murders in one of the Ambassador’s guest rooms.
Today, after a decade-long $14 million restoration of the property, the hotel is once again an architectural masterpiece. Guests are greeted with gleaming marble floors, stylized polished nickel sconces and ornate plasterwork that harken 1920’s grandeur. Signs of Egyptian Revival, a popular sub-motif that emerged after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922, are also prevalent throughout the historic property.
Perhaps the hotel’s richest history is that of its former guests. In the 1930s, guests were often entertained by a pre-fame Liberace (a Milwaukee native) in the hotel lounge. In the early 1960s, future-president John F. Kennedy spoke to a United Chemical Workers Convention at the Ambassador; a few years later The Beatles spent the night at the hotel after a landmark Milwaukee performance. Today, the Ambassador is the closest hotel to Marquette University, Brewers’ home Miller Park and concert venue The Rave. And its dining hotspots — most notably the fine-dining The Fitz — draw locals to the vintage space in droves.
But the Ambassador’s bronze elevator doors — unique in the fact that they pull out rather than slide open — provide the hotel’s most popular photo op for the “influencer” set. How hotsy-totsy.