Worth the Drive: Boutique Hotels
Boutique hotels aren’t your ordinary accommodations. They offer a unique experience you won’t find at the standard chain hotels – nods to history, custom rooms, chef inspired cuisine and often a chance to meet and mingle with other guests. Put these beautiful boutique hotels on your travel list this summer for an unforgettable place to wind down.
The Fig & The Pheasant, Plymouth
Built in 1892, The Fig & The Pheasant is one of the longest running, continuously operating hotels in Wisconsin. “It’s just a beautiful building built in Queen Anne Style,” says owner Ronna O’Toole. She and her husband Patrick bought it in October 2019. “It’s in pretty great condition for the age of it,” she says. “[It’s a] historic building; it’s quaint.” Each of their 19 rooms are elaborately decorated in a traditional English style. Most of the rooms also have whirlpool tubs in their bathrooms. The pair are chef-owners and met competing for a line cook position in Northern California. “We’ve been chefs forever . . . and since then we’ve worked in lots of places and lived abroad for 10 years ourselves,” O’Toole says. “So, we’ve gathered lots of experiences and tasted different kinds of cuisines.” The O’Tooles offer breakfast to overnight guests as part of the room package. “It’s always delicious . . . lots of people say it’s the best breakfast they’ve ever had,” O’Toole says. With a week’s notice pre-order, the couple personally serves a five-course tasting menu with an optional wine pairing. “It’s wonderful; it’s a really good way to taste a variety of things on our menu,” O’Toole says. “[It’s] really worth it; it’s an experience.” Every Wednesday night the O’Tooles open their lobby to an Irish traditional music session. “They are a part of our local community and they have a variety of instruments,” O’Toole says. “We move our furniture; they kind of fill up the lobby; they have all known each other for years; it’s great.”
The Doe House, Oshkosh
Paul Williams and Becky Doe Brown have run The Doe House from their home in Houston, Texas since they bought it in 2018. It’s a 150-year-old, 4,700 square-foot, Victorian-style house. “We want to open it up and let people experience the silent house, staying in it . . . the creaky floors, the grand ballroom and the sun porch,” says Brown, an Oshkosh native. “So, for us, the draw is the house itself.” The Doe House features a fully equipped kitchen, laundry facilities, lodging for 12, a dining room, luxury bathrooms and a ballroom. The owners welcome groups to share the house anywhere from one night to weeks at a time. It is conveniently located near downtown Oshkosh, with many walkable destinations — bars, restaurants, Leach Amphitheater, the Oshkosh Public Library, the Grand Opera House and the YMCA. “It’s such an ideal location; we love it,” Brown says. The house has been in Brown’s family for many generations. “Harvey Doe was the brother of my great, great, grandmother, so the son of the guy who built the house — William H. Doe,” Brown says. “[Harvey] married the woman who became Baby Doe Tabor, and she’s very famous for her riches to rags story where she died in Leadville, penniless, because the silver mining industry was overturned by the gold standard.” The house is the last remaining structure related to Baby Doe. The Doe House is partnering with the Oshkosh Grand to help house artists with their Artist in Residence Program. Those interested may apply online to stay at the house for isolated inspiration.
The Audubon Hotel and Event Venue, Mayville
Owner Amy Hopfinger and husband Todd Strauss purchased The Audubon Hotel and Event Venue in October 2020. “We did remodel the interior but left all the historic beautiful things that were in there — there’s tons of gorgeous detail, historic woodwork, chandeliers,” Hopfinger says. “There’s beautiful staircases leading up from the first lobby.” The hotel has three lobbies and is three stories. The second two lobbies are on the third floor and have been turned into art galleries, where Hopfinger and Strauss feature artists from all over the Midwest. All the rooms also have art from local artists over the walls and are available for purchase. “So, there’s 18 rooms; they’re kind of all different; we have some king beds, queen beds, some double beds; we can sleep about 55 people, so somebody can rent the entire hotel out for an event or wedding,” Hopfinger says. The hotel also has an attached bar called The Beaumont, which was the original name of the hotel. “You’ll find beautiful stained glass all throughout the hotel and the bar and the event gallery,” Hopfinger says. The bar is now open, and everything is made from scratch. “It’s a craft cocktail and craft beer bar,” Hopfinger says. The owners’ goals are to get live music weekly in the bar, as well as events like murder mystery parties, bingo and hosting a medium to walk guests through the building as it is known for being “haunted.” Other events will include wine and beer tastings.
White Lace Inn, Sturgeon Bay
Dennis and Bonnie Statz looked all over Vermont, New Hampshire, lower Michigan and Wisconsin for about a year, before deciding on Sturgeon Bay for their inn’s location in 1982. The White Lace Inn has 18 rooms and suites in four Victorian houses. “[The houses] are interconnected by a central backyard — pathways, gardens, gazebos, tons of benches and chairs . . . so it’s like our own little private courtyard with four houses that connect the backyards,” Dennis Statz says. Of the 18 rooms, there are six rooms with wood-burning fireplaces, three with just a whirlpool and nine rooms that have both a gas fireplace and a whirlpool. Breakfast is served in the main house between 8 and 10:30 a.m. Many folks have come to the inn to tie the knot. “We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of weddings here; they’re all small weddings, we don’t do anything of large scale, most of which are essentially elopements,” Statz says.
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