The Magazine of Marquette University | Summer 2006

 

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ALUMNI PROFILE

Return of a classic

Step into Milwaukee’s Ambassador Hotel and you’ll think you’re in another era. Rick Wiegand, Bus Ad '81, rescued the art deco jewel.

By Jeanette Hurt, Comm '93

Just a decade ago the Ambassador was covered in grime, and its tenants a cast of shady characters. Then Wiegand invested more than $10 million, and now gleaming nickel sconces illuminate the custom crown molding and delicate terrazzo and marble floors that were hidden for years beneath green shag carpeting. That’s just a hint of the Ambassador’s metamorphosis.

“People thought I was crazy when I first bought it,” Wiegand concedes. “But now they realize that maybe I’m not so crazy after all.”

After purchasing the hotel in 1995, he realized he needed not only to restore the Ambassador, but also the surrounding buildings needed tidying. He purchased and renovated them, too. When he learned the hotel’s new parking lot would require the demolition of three houses, he gave the houses to the West End Development Corp., which moved them to city-donated lots. And when it was time for long-term residents of the Ambassador to move out, he helped them relocate.

While the final project far outpaced Wiegand’s original plans, he has no regrets. “The more I worked on the Ambassador and discovered elements from when it was in its heyday, the more I realized that was what it should be again,” he says. “It cost more, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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