A sleeping giant stirs in Green Bay, Wisconsin. You can almost hear her rustle from the shadow of Lambeau Field and from the shops that line the opposite shore of the often frigid Fox River. She is the Hotel Northland, and she’s was a colossus of luxury entertainment and accomodation in her day. Soon she will wake.
When the Hotel Northland opened on March 21, 1924, she was the largest hotel in all of Wisconsin. Situated in the heart of downtown Green Bay, she overlooks the icy waters that flow into that storied offshoot of Lake Michigan, the vibrant lights and life of Washington St., and the hearty hustle of her northern neighbors.
She stands amidst the humble but modern buildings of the newly revitalized downtown area. Having received over $7 million in tax credits to aid her return to former glory, she is one of the pillars of that rejuvenation effort. Her charm promises to bring respected visitors who in turn promise to breathe life into the partially empty storefront windows that line the streets surrounding her.
A History Steeped in Sports Legend
In her day, she served as a major hub for the Green Bay Packers organization, hosting for decades every team that visited to play them, as well as their excited fans anxious to witness the fable firsthand. Vince Lombardi himself stayed in and delivered speeches in the hotel, his iconic voice bouncing off of the elegant woodwork and crystal chandeliers, like a king’s in his castle.
“I’ve never been a loser, and I don’t expect to be now!” he boomed during the 1959 press luncheon in the Crystal Ballroom at the Northland just days after being named the Packers Head Coach. “I want it understood that I am in complete command!” Even amid the chaos of renovation, it is easy to imagine him peering down over the railing from the second floor balcony, casting a challenging eye on the ballroom’s guests.
The hotel was a home to the NFL and to the Packers decades before Lombardi took the helm, though. In 1927, just three years after the hotel opened, it had earned such a reputation in the league that the NFL held a meeting there. Curly Lambeau, after whom the “Frozen Tundra” is named, actually lived in the hotel for a time, as did a number of Packers players in the early years. The Hotel Northland also served as a temporary NFL headquarters in three different years in the 1960s when Green Bay hosted the NFL championship games.
Blue Blood Roots
It’s historic celebrity guest list spans far outside the realm of professional football, though. Actor Lon Chaney and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt enjoyed the accommodations of the Hotel Northland. It also played a notable role in the history of the Kennedy family, having not only hosted John F. Kennedy, but coincidentally also being the location where Senator Eugene McCarthy was informed by Senator Ted Kennedy that Robert F. Kennedy would the next day be announcing his intention to run for President.
The Northland is currently slated to open in November (2018) as a member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. The signature emphasis of the hotel will be its history and the history of the legendary city it calls home. In an effort to highlight that history, renovation efforts have been focused on preserving authenticity and the original atmosphere for which the hotel first became famous.
Corridors of Class
Aside from the historic and elegant front desk lobby area complete with the original chandeliers and intricately tiled floor, the ground level of the Northland will house a Packers fan- and fan history-themed sports bar called “Poke the Bear” as a nod to the team’s oldest rivalry. On the other side of the lobby distinguished diners can enjoy gourmet morning and evening meals in the Walnut Room, the hotel’s luxury dining restaurant.
The Northland’s lower level and second floor possess a nearly unfathomable amount of available space for hosting conventions, meetings, parties, and events. The whimsical inclusion of a bar, pool tables, shuffleboard, and a renovated version of the hotel’s original two-lane bowling alley pay homage to the good-natured demeanor and family-friendly mindset of the fun-loving locals.
Above the second floor are located the hotel’s 160 various rooms, ensuring that each guest room floor offers a vantage point for viewing Green Bay’s clean, quiet downtown scene. Constructed in a time before mass duplication was more of a priority than originality and creativity, the hotel showcases 33 different layouts for guest rooms and suites. The rooms have been redecorate, re-furnished, and updated appropriately, but just down each hallway waits the original mail chute through which the letters and postcards of excited guests first traveled to the lobby on opening day in March of 1924.
Core of the Social Scene
If “history” is one of the two main facets of the Hotel Northland, “luxury” is its inseparable twin. With an air of distinguished nobility, the Hotel Northland will offer a doorman, bellhops, valet service, and all of the many extensive guest services that luxury affords. Its more extravagant suites feature working fireplaces, full modern kitchens, spacious separate rooms, and posh bathrooms. The opening of the Northland promises its guests that comfort and adult socialite touch that may at least fill a bit of an existing void in downtown Green Bay.
Just a couple of blocks away from the live shows at the Meyer theater, directly across the street from one of downtown’s trendiest wine rooms, and within view of the iconic Hagemeister Park on Green Bay’s City Deck riverwalk, the Northland is in the perfect position to serve as a landing spot for a night out on the town in Green Bay or simply as one of a number of memorable spots on an entertaining evening in Titletown. Regardless of the nature of your visit, the reopening of the historic Hotel Northland is sure to add a touch of class, of taste, of culture, and of luxury to your trip.