Hotel in Wisconsin before disastrous fire


Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin
Date added: June 27, 2023 Categories: Wisconsin Hotel
Looking from southeast (1985)

Historically, the Carlton Hotel was an important feature of commercial activity in Edgerton. Catering to travelers, visiting businessmen and the ever-expanding local tobacco industry, the hotel was the premier hostelry in the community and functioned as an important center of social and business activity.

The first successful tobacco crop in the Edgerton area was harvested in 1857. By the 1870's tobacco buyers from the east coast were traveling to Edgerton to buy southern Wisconsin's crop. Soon there were over fifty buildings in Edgerton catering to the tobacco industry including offices and warehouses.

The tobacco grown near Edgerton was cigar leaf tobacco used to wrap cigars. Since cigars were the popular smoking material of the period, the Edgerton farmers became important domestic suppliers of tobacco leaf. The production of cigar leaf declined after World War I when cigarette use became widespread.

There were a handful of hotels in Edgerton at the end of the 19th century. They catered mostly to railroad traffic and tobacco buyers. In the mid-1890s the leading hotel, The Commercial House, closed down. Concerned about maintaining the community's focus, local citizens pledged $2,000 as a bonus to capital to build a new hotel. After considerable effort, the Hausmann Brewing Company of Madison was convinced to put up the necessary capital (about $20,000) to build a modern, elegant hotel. The final cost of the hotel was estimated at $25,000.

The Carlton was well placed, only a half block from downtown. The tobacco warehouses, workplace of the buyers, were all less than four blocks from the hotel. The Carlton opened New Year's Day 1898. In order to capture the hotel commerce in the area, only the finest appointments were provided. Thousands of dollars were spent in elegant fixtures, carpets from Brussels, Crockery, linen and silver of the finest quality. No finer electric light fixtures could be found in any public buildings. The $1,500 spent in interior decoration of walls and ceilings alone was clear evidence that the builders aimed to make the Carlton "so superior in elegance to the average hotels of the state that it will be the talk of the traveling public and at once be accorded the distinction of being the finest country hotel in the West".

During its heyday, the hotel catered only to "white collars." "You couldn't even come in the front door of the bar without a coat on. .. To enter the dining room, you practically had to have a swallowtail coat to get in." Since Edgerton was a leaf tobacco center, and cigars were extremely popular during the period, many eastern and foreign buyers made the Carlton their headquarters and money freely exchanged hands at the hotel. After a day in the sheds and warehouses, buyers crowded the bar trying to keep up with the latest changes in the tobacco market. The hotels well-appointed sample rooms were also sites of keen exchanges among tobacco merchants, salesmen, and local businessmen.

The formal grand opening was on January 10, 1898, with visiting dignitaries from all over the state. Tickets for supper and dance were $3 per couple. Among the dignitaries were Carl J. and William P. Hausmann and specially authorized smoking coaches from Madison, Beloit, and Janesville brought other guests. A total of 1,000 guests took part in the gala event to dedicate what to many was a sign of faith in the future of the leading tobacco town in the region.

The Carlton was the last of 5 hotels to be built in Edgerton, and is the only one remaining today. The others included the U.S. Hotel built in 1855, The American House built in 1856, the Taylor House built in 1855, and the previously mentioned Commercial House. The most modern and well-appointed of the local establishments, the Carlton maintained its reputation as the center of local social and recreational activity well into the 20th century. World War I and Prohibition put an end to the hotel's "high-hat" days. Edgerton, and particularly the Carlton, rose and fell on tobacco, and when cigarettes came into great popularity, the cigar leaf tobacco market fell off.

In 1988 the vacant building was purchased, and a $500,000 restoration was undertaken. The first floor restuarant became one of the areas most popular dining spots. The building owners lived on the third floor.

On September 9, 1991, fire broke out in the building and destroyed it.

Building Description

The Carlton House of Edgerton is a fine example of Frank H. Kemps architectural. design, built in 1898. It is a three-story, cream brick rectangular building with an air and light shaft to the rear for the second and third story guest rooms.

Situated adjacent to the city's main commercial corridor along a street of modestly-scaled 1 1/2 - 2 story structures, the building is a sizable example of late 19th-century classically proportioned design. A raised stone basement is the base for one of Edgerton's formidable commercial buildings. Above the stone foundation rise two rounded two-story bays, each with two, one-over-one windows and a large, central-transomed window on each floor. The bays once were topped by ornate wrought iron railings which matched those on the entrance porch. The bays are now covered with Permastone (a false stone veneer). The intent of the owner is to remove the veneer since the underlying brick and stone appear to be intact. Third-floor windows include double-hung sash and large transomed windows under heavy jack arch lintels.

The one-story rectangular entry porch is decorated with Colonial Revival garlands. Square stone columns support the roof. The original double oak doors with sidelights are in place and lead to a set of double swinging doors in a wainscoted and tiled vestibule designed to prevent drafts. The delicate wrought iron rails are the focal point of the porch. Matching rails are also used to top the porch's second-story deck.

The second story of the front porch is reached through a centrally located, segmental-arched doorway. The double doors have sidelights and a transom.

The false gable roof is covered with asphalt shingles which imitate the color of red ceramic tile. The gable walls end in stepped parapets. There is a flat roof behind the gable which covers most of the building. A large stepped parapet wall dormer adorns the center of the roof. Two small hip-roofed dormers used to flank both sides of the existing dormer. The remaining dormer is decorated with a delicately ornamented wrought iron flagpole that rises over the hotel, and twin, fixed-pane windows with keystone arches.

The openings on the front facade are trimmed with Bedford stone lintels and continuous sills. A stone engraved with the word "CARLTON" is embedded above the second-story doorway.

Metal cornices manufactured by Hoffman and Company of Milwaukee are above the second and third-story windows. Above the upper cornice is a chevron-patterned corbel table typical of Kemp's work. Similar corbeling appears on his Stoughton City Hall/Library.

The Carlton Hotel was built as a luxurious businessmen's hotel. So the interior is well-designed and embellished with well-proportioned detail.

The basement originally contained the laundry, furnace, stockrooms, and fuel bins. Today there are stock areas, and a furnace.

The first floor is entered in the front through heavy oak doors into a small vestibule where the hotel's name is inlaid in the tile floor, through the swinging doors which prevent drafts is the main lobby. To the left are oak columns that mark the entrance of the old office, now a sitting room. A small elegant oak mantle surrounds the fireplace.

To the right of the entrance are huge oak sliding doors that lead to the former reading room. Behind this room, through a large pair of sliding oak doors is the dining room. These doors can be opened to provide a large banquet space. Behind the dining room is the kitchen and storage.

A broad stairway of carved oak leads to the upper floors from the area behind the old office. Behind the stairs were two sample rooms with doors to the alley to accept baggage. These doorways are bricked in. The bar was: behind the sample rooms which were used to display tobacco products. The sample room walls have been removed to enlarge the bar area. Another fireplace is in the bar. Most of the original liquor cabinets are intact. The restrooms are just outside the bar in the center of the building.

The second-floor front contains two parlors, each with fireplaces and one has a connecting sleeping room.

The third story front has three large rooms connected with sliding doors so that they can be opened for parties.

Restrooms are provided on each floor. Georgia pine is used on the second and third floors. The sleeping rooms are arranged around the hall and light well. Each room has at least one window to the outside, a closet and a small sink.

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from southeast (1985)
Looking from southeast (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from southeast (1985)
Looking from southeast (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from east (1985)
Looking from east (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from southeast (1985)
Looking from southeast (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from southeast Detail of porch (1985)
Looking from southeast Detail of porch (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from northeast Porch (1985)
Looking from northeast Porch (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from southeast Rail detail (1985)
Looking from southeast Rail detail (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from east Entry detail (1985)
Looking from east Entry detail (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from southeast Roof detail (1985)
Looking from southeast Roof detail (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from southeast Roof detail (1985)
Looking from southeast Roof detail (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from west Rear elevation (1985)
Looking from west Rear elevation (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from northwest Rear elevation (1985)
Looking from northwest Rear elevation (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from west (1985)
Looking from west (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Looking from north (1985)
Looking from north (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Lobby (1985)
Lobby (1985)

Carlton Hotel, Edgerton Wisconsin Lobby (1985)
Lobby (1985)