This week I had to the opportunity to attend an event at the Pfister Hotel. Located in downtown Milwaukee, "the Pfister has been the premier hotel for over a century."
According to their website, "The Pfister opened in 1893 as a 'Grand Hotel of the West'....
It was the most lavish hotel of its time, constructed at a cost of more than $1 million, with groundbreaking features including fireproofing, electricity throughout the hotel and thermostat controls in every room."
The Pfister hosts a fine collection of Victorian paintings and I was able to photograph several pieces (gallery below ).
Although many historical buildings have succumbed to the wrecking ball or "extreme" renovation, this hotel has been preserved with much care thanks to the vision of Ben Marcus and others.
A Public Place
The Pfister is a notably secular, public building, but we see how beauty can inspire us even here. It bids us to pause and take a step out from what is the common, everyday or utilitarian. It doesn't matter whether it is created beauty like at the Pfister, or natural beauty or something intangible. Beauty has the power to us draw first to itself and then, ultimately, beyond to God.
St. Augustine wrote "Belatedly I loved Thee, O Beauty, so ancient and so new, belatedly I loved Thee. For see, Thou wast within and I was without, and I sought thee out there. Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things Thou hast made. Thou wast with me, but I was not with Thee. These things kept me far from Thee; even though they were not at all unless they were in Thee. (Bk. X, ch. 27)."
We can strive to make the sentiments of St. Augustine our own: "Listen to the song with understanding, and let not the weakness of the flesh distract your eyes from the splendor of His beauty" (Comm. on the Psalms 44, 300).
Note the outside view from the Imperial Ballroom window.
You can see the Calatrava & Milwaukee Art Museum addition and the controversial orange sunburst sculpture. Stylistically, a lot has happened in Milwaukee since the opening of the Pfister.