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What it may lack in sensory experience the feel of the paper, the smell of the ink this digital

al download makes up for with its weightless and instantaneous convenience. In this free downloadable excerpt from Tablet10 Volume 8: The Americas youll get a look behind the scenes at the Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and read an exclusive interview with owner Tim Dixon. And if you like what you see here, youll like it even better on paper: the print version of our latest Tablet10 magazine is available at

The Iron Horse Hotel

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA


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im Dixon describes himself first of all as a property developer. But he was a carpenter firstwhich accounts for a large part of The Iron Horse Hotels style. This century-old brick warehouse is supported by massive timbers, which are left exposed throughout the interior. The lobby floor is a meticulous re-creation of a turn-of-the-century shop floor, and the craftsmanship on display in the cabinetry, the vintage furnishings, and even the trim, is of unmistakable quality. Much is made of the Iron Horses supposed obsession with motorcycles, especially Harley-Davidsons; the Harley museum is just across the train tracks, and the Iron Horse does offer a thoughtful selection of services for riders, including covered parking, a bike wash, and plenty of space for helmets, boots and leathers. But the Iron Horse is really about industry, particularly 20th-century local industry, a tribute to the south side of Milwaukee, where the hotel is just one in a row of splendidly weathered old brick factory buildings. Theres a sense in which motorcycle manufacture and carpentry (to say nothing of the sculptural metalwork and large-scale art installations within the hotel) are different aspects of the same thing. In New York or London a boutique hotel is free to carve out as narrow a niche as it likes, but in Milwaukee there cant possibly be enough Harley riders or carpentry freaks to reliably fill a hundred rooms on a Monday night. But the rooms, with their massive pillow-topped mattresses and rain showers the size of racquetball courts, are luxe enough for demanding customers, and yet still very accessibly priced. And the naturally gregarious locals arent shy about collecting in the lobby, the bar, the restaurant, or the outdoor lounge on the buildings sunset side. Now if only every mid-sized American city could have a hotel like this one. v


A conversation with owner

Tim Dixon
Why hotels? Im an urban developer. Carpenter by trade. Put myself through college doing carpentry. I worked for a guy who renovated old buildings. I fell in love with buildings, and of course started buying my own buildings, and ultimately my projects got bigger and bigger. And how did this one end up happening? The owners of this building called me. You look around, its an old industrial park. Its actually a historic industrial park. This is a historic preservation. For me it was heaven. Heavy woods, big beams, the brick, the whole bit. I ran three scenarios. Loft apartments, which Id owned and done before. Loft condos, which I had already five years ago looked in my crystal ball and said this is way too crazy. And I thought about a hotel. For whatever reason, I had always wanted to get into the hotel business. And Ill tell you straight out, this is all I want to do for the rest of my life. Best project, most fun, most intense, most creative. Everything demanded things from me. What youre doing, youre meshing real estate, which Im good at, with business. Every inch is either revenue or an expense. And that creative process forced even more creativity. So I signed the purchase agreements. A little bit of a weak location for a hotel. I was thinking it was probably going to be loft apartments. Two weeks later they announced the Harley-Davidson museum. Their projection says 350,000 people a year. So its got to be a hotel. The first thing I did was I flew to New York and went to thirty-seven boutique hotels in two and a half days. The Soho Grandwhat I said when I walked away was, what they built from the ground up, I already own. They built a hotel to look like an old industrial building. And then they did what we did, used metal and kind of refined details in an industrial way. Then I went to LA and went to the Standards. Went to Chicago. And then wrote a business plan, saying that what Milwaukee needs is an experiential hotel, but also combined with a lobby scene. Milwaukee doesnt have a hotel that has a lobby scene. When I go on vacation, Im constantly trying to find the culture. I dont want to go to the tourist trap, I want to go where I can meet the people. Well, we bring the people here. The locals support us like crazy. Friday and Saturday nights are nuts, and the yard is nuts. What we do here is create opportunities for interaction. It just works. It feels great. What about the bike angle? The misnomer, of course, is that everyone thought it was going to be a motorcycle-themed hotel. Which it is not. But we went out to motorcycle riders. Actually got in front of twenty managers of Harley-Davidson dealerships. These are business travelers and riders. We want to accommodate you as a business traveler but we want to accommodate you as a rider as well. And this one woman was fantastic, outspoken as hell. And she said If youre really serious about that, then Id better be comfortable walking through your lobby in my dirty buckle boots or my pumps. That became our mantra. Everything we did from that day forward we thought of it that way. The typical demographic of a luxury business boutique hotel guest is fortysomething, married, college educated. Thats the exact same demographics for motorcycle riders. Twenty million in America alone. What youve got is somebody, male or female, maybe in a suit during the week, and on the weekends, they put on their leathers. They bring about ten per cent of our volume here, but they bring about ninety per cent of the atmosphere. We have European bikers who show up here for a week. The word gets out that the Italians are here, suddenly people show up. v For the rest of this interview, plus interviews with artists Charles Dwyer and Amber Van Galder, please visit

7 The Iron Horse Hotel

For me it was heaven. Heavy woods, big beams, the brick, the whole bit. Tim Dixon

Your Guide to

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Courtesy of The Iron Horse Hotel
The Iron Horse Hotel 500 West Florida Street Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Koppas Fulbeli Deli 1940 North Farwell Avenue +1 414 273 1273 Lakefront Brewery Fish Fry 1872 North Commerce Street +1 414 372 8800 Crazy Water 839 South 2nd Street +1 414 645 2606 Roots 1818 North Hubbard Street +1 414 374 8480 Lake Park Bistro 3133 East Newberry Boulevard +1 414 962 6300

Riverview Antique Market 175 South Water Street +1 414 278 9999

Wolskis 1836 North Pulaski Street +1 414 276 8130 Hi Hat 1701 North Arlington Place +1 414 220 8090

Must Do
Harley-Davidson Museum 400 Canal Street +1 877 436 8738 Miller Park Home of Major League Baseballs Milwaukee Brewers 1 Brewers Way +1 414 389 1433 For the complete guide to Milwaukee by The Iron Horse Hotel, please visit



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Tablet Stars:

John Varvatos
Fashion Designer
John Varvatos grew up in Detroit, where many of Americas musical threads are woven together, from the MC5 to Motown to the Stooges. His hometowns heritage left a lasting influence on his award-winning menswear designs, where fastidious detailing and old-world craftsmanship are roughed up with a rock-and-roll edge. ollowing stints with Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, he launched the first John Varvatos collection in 2000, and its only been up from there. Since then hes expanded his menswear line into a full-on lifestyle brand, updated Converses iconic Chuck Taylors and Jack Purcells for a new generation, and has even taken over the former site of the celebrated rock club CBGB as the home of his new Bowery boutique. Alongside his design work, Mr. Varvatos puts on the annual Stuart House benefit concert, and also finds the time to host a show called Born in Detroit, on Sirius XM Radio. He found a spare moment to share with us his top hotel picks, as our newest Tablet Star. v For more hotel picks from Tablet Stars go to

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Top Ten New Hotels

Volume 6

Asia and Africa

Top Ten New Hotels

Volume 7



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