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.
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.”