This hotel is not for everyone. In fact there were times during my very long one-night stay when I wondered if the Knickerbocker Hotel in Milwaukee was for anyone at all. I was creeped out the moment I stepped into the room I had been assigned, No. 314. The publicity touts the individuality of the decor (that's an understatement) along theme lines. I couldn't detect any theme at all in my room aside from perhaps 1930s down and out skid row prostitute or laid off WPA worker that had been tarted up with a coat of paint to cover up, possibly, a room fire or something. There was a sinister stain on the ceiling over the big tv screen looming in the corner of the small 'efficiency' condo that bespoke any number of sources. it could have been a blood stain for all I know that had seeped down from the floor above.
The room also had two very unfortunate features. The first was a depressing kitchenette, but I improved the ambience by closing the folding doors on that; the second was tile floors more suitable to a Florida motel. The floor made an already drab north-facing room very cold and austere. I think most of the rooms used for hotel guests face on the rear and stare at another drab apartment building with a huge dumpster in between.
The only climate control was the window which I had to leave open all night in order not to be suffocated by the odor of old burnt Dinty Moore stew from another room that permeated mine. Or it might have been the fried fish and chips from the Irish pub on the other end of the parking lot I overlooked.
The furnishings fit no scheme at all other than being cheap rejects from Rent-A-Center. There were some original wall sconces that were probably cheap when they were new decades ago. They were singularly depressing and suicidal.
The bathroom was okay, but it was old with six-sided tiles with ingrained stains in the corners of the room. The tub was old and narrow and short and deep, like a foreshortened coffin. But the water pressure was good and lots of hot water. The bath I took made me feel slightly less disoriented.
The 'beautiful' lobby was not to be found as far as I could tell. This is a typical early 20th century monolithic broad-shouldered kind of structure that covers the Lake shore in Milwaukee and Chicago. They are nothing special and this particular hotel would not have come even close to gaining historical status in Chicago because there are so many of them there filled with ancient old ladies who've lived there since 1937.
The entry level of the Knickerbocker Milwaukee is enlivened by two glitzy over-priced (but busy) restaurants, one Italian the other... something else, urban trendy, something like that, wine. We didn't go to those.
A large rambling hair salon takes up all of the foyer space which is graced by execrable portraits of Southern belles. This echoing, penny-plain drab marble corridor leads to the little box where the concierge sits with a hand-held walkie-talkie phone, like the military in the heat of combat. Alicia, the young woman on duty, was extremely helpful and upbeat. She was the only staff I saw, though someone must have come along in the night to slip the printed out receipt under my door. There was, by the way, a 3/4" gap between the bottom of the room door and the tile floor. Fortunately there were no drunken parties going on that weekend to make this a big problem.
The biggest problem with the Knickerbocker are the wafer thin walls. I had the presence of mind to bring good earplugs and slept well (the mattress was good though the pillows had an aura of dried sweat about them). My friends, without earplugs, were kept up until about 3 am by the resident neighbor's television tuned, as it had been all day, to ESPN.
This person kept his door ajar all day and night, by the way. Was he open for business, dead? We never investigated.
The Knickerbocker is some kind of realty scam. I cannot believe the owners of these horrible efficiencies would deign to spend a single night in them themselves. It's a money-making racket. I only paid $102.00 but that was too much, in my opinion. for the oppressive, cheap and disturbing atmosphere of my room. I've stayed at the Madonna Inn near Santa Barbara which is along similar lines, every room being based on a decorative and FUN theme. The Knickerbocker is not fun.
Milwaukee is a very enjoyable city with many excellent restaurants (don't miss the Bistro on the Lake for fabulous French food and no pretensions, but it costs). I will go there again soon but I will not ever be staying at the sombre and weird Knickerbocker again.
My friends and I tried to make a joke about it but it wasn't easy because the pall of the experience wouldn't lift until I got back home and took a long shower.
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- Also Known As:
- Knickerbocker On The Lake Hotel Milwaukee
- Knickerbocker On The Lake Milwaukee