Who wouldn’t want to stay in the heart of Kenosha in the 100-year-old home of The Stella Hotel & Ballroom? This former Kenosha Elks Club built in 1919 has been renovated to its current beauty. Thanks to the Kenosha CVB, my friend Annie Jansen and I were provided lodging in one of 12 Heritage Suites! It was a wonderful experience.
Besides the 12 Heritage Suites, The Stella has 68 lovely standard rooms as well making this a sweet spot in the center of town.
I called this the sweet spot and it is. Annie and I loved the Stella location. It is just blocks from Lake Michigan. The Stella is within walking distance of great restaurants. You can walk to craft breweries and fun shops as well.
Annie and I were amazed by the magnitude of beautiful churches in the surrounding area. The Stella is also near museums. There is a lovely park close by along with the waterfront harbor. You can also pick up the trolley just a few blocks away. The trolley ride is a great way to see both the downtown and the shoreline!
The History of the Stella the Malt House
Annie and I learned the earliest history of the Stella while on a tour of the Kenosha County History Center. Chris Allen the Director told us that the Pettit Malting Company was the first building to sit on the site of the Stella.
On the Stella Hotel website they share a bit about the malt house. “Recognized as the oldest malt house in Wisconsin, the Pettit Malting Company was established in 1857. The original building held 50,000 bushels annually, but as business expanded and demands grew, the plant was torn down and replaced by a new one with the capacity to hold 300,000 bushels. By 1885, the business continued its growth with capacity being increased up to 600,000 bushels per year. In 1888 the building was expanded to three stories in height, the first floor being used for malting, second level as a steep room and the third for storage space.”
The malt house burned in 1914 during a fire on St. Patrick’s Day.
A Tip of the Hat to the Elks Club & the rest of the story
Yvette Lamphier, Director of Sales for The Stella, gave us a tour and expanded on this history. “The original Elks Club built a new building here in 1919.”
She told us that the Kenosha Elks Club was a chapter of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. The Elks is an American fraternal order founded in 1868.
The construction on the Elks Club building began in 1916 after the Pettit Malting Company burnt down in 1914. The building was formally dedicated in January of 1919.
During our tour we learned that the finished Elks Club featured a hotel and swimming pool which is now covered and is a conference/board room. However, the original tiles are still in place. Many of the Elk Club dining facilities have now been converted into space like the beautiful Stella lobby.
The club hosted numerous special guests during its years of operation like the talented Mel Torme. In the 1990’s, the club was sold and became The Heritage House Inn.
As the Inn there were many owners and the building was a banquet hall. It closed in the mid 2000’s. The hotel was abandoned. To add to the damage, there was a fire in 2011.
Today at the Stella
Yvette pointed out many ways in which the designers honored the Elk’s history in the updated version of the Stella. “We are giving honor to the Elk’s Club,” she shared pointing out the way a picture of an Elk is above the bed in the Standard room. We also had paintings of Elks in a winter scene in our suite.
The Stella Hotel & Ballroom is part of a Gorman & Company project. Gorman & company specializes in downtown revitalization. They did a magnificent job at the Stella. As best as they could they kept things original like bringing in the original chandeliers.
The 4,000 square foot ballroom is amazing. They had their first wedding here even though they just opened in April. They can seat between 250 – 275 Yvette shared.
There is also a nice workout room. Annie and I were both impressed with the fun game room with a hanging Scrabble game. This room will please all ages. The only missing piece for the younger crowd is a pool.
Dining at the 1844 Table & Mash
Annie and I had dinner at the 1844 Table & Mash and our server was Alexis. She brought us a great meal, but like the rest of the staff it was her friendliness and outgoing personality that made the meal. We shared and had an appetizer of Charteucerie and bread and split a spring chicken and vegetable entrée. Then topped off the meal with a great tiramisu!
There is also a nice café where you can pick up items like muffins and a wonderful passion fruit tea!
Yvette also took us upstairs to the Crow’s Nest a soon to be open roof top bar. This area will cater to the “backyard party” casual atmosphere.
From the front desk to the back door, everything about the Stella is top rate. The day we were checking out they were having the presentation about all that went into this multi-million dollar project. It took a community to bring about this type of project. Kenosha can be proud of the show piece they have brought back to life.
We had to get on the road and missed the ribbon cutting, but cheers to The Stella Hotel & Ballroom, long may she thrive!
If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy other stories about historic hotel. There is the beautiful Casa Marina in Jacksonville, Florida or the Black Hawk in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Another haunted, historic hotel is the lovely Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs!