CEDARBURG – Washington House Inn innkeeper Wendy Porterfield knows a thing or two about the elegant, historic Cedarburg hotel, built in 1846 by German immigrant Conrad Horneffer – two years before the state of Wisconsin was established. After all, she’s been running the inn for 37 years. Porterfield noted that Horneffer had emigrated to Milwaukee and was a skilled leatherworker who owned a harness store. In 1843 he moved to Cedarburg and started building the hotel because the city had started to grow and prosper and was a day’s drive from Milwaukee – the perfect place for travelers to rest for the night .
Although the Washington House Inn remained a hotel for many years, it was later divided for other businesses, including an auto parts store, offices for a dentist, and a lawyer with apartments above. In 1984, entrepreneur Jim Pape purchased the building and began transforming it into a hotel with the help of Kevin Pape and Kevin Porterfield. Hollowing out the interior, 15 rooms were originally carved out and over the years more rooms were added, now totaling 29 in the main inn and five rooms in the historic Schroeder House, surrounded by a garden beautifully cultivated perennial.
This elegantly restored historic hotel is beautiful inside and out. Built in cream town brick, many rooms have stone and plaster walls and exposed beams, wood plank floors, four-poster beds, locally acquired antiques, fireplaces, whirlpool tubs, and beautifully curated decor which is original screen TVs and wifi throughout. Most rooms have a relaxed, sophisticated country feel while others have a more formal Victorian style style – and every room has a name – a tribute to the former luminaries of Cedarburg. A valuable artefact from the past on display in the lobby is the original guest register from 1895 with the signatures of the guests and where they came from.
It’s no secret that the Washington House Inn is a huge success. There are over a thousand rave reviews on Trip Advisor alone and have been awarded the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence each year. It is still a winner of “Best Of” in Milwaukee magazine and was named in 2018 one of the 25 most romantic hotels in the United States.
Guests come from all over the United States and Europe, whether it’s for a wedding, a Harley-Davidson rally, corporate retreats, a golf tournament, Outdoor Painters for the annual competition in June or just to a relaxing weekend – and more often for cyclists exploring the Ozaukee Intercity Trail. For business travelers, there is a business center and a conference room. Right now, there is a surge of online bookings from all over the world for the 2021 Ryder Cup tournament in Sheboygan from September 21-26.
Five stars a service
Porterfield takes great pride in the fact that most reviewers mention the hostel’s excellent staff and is grateful that every employee shares a sense of pride in ownership, always putting customers first with the two longtime bakers who arrive at 5 am to create breakfasts. and pastries each morning, served in the comfortable and airy meeting room. Their much-requested recipes have ended up in The Washington House Favorites cookbook, which includes a history of the hotel and is available for purchase. When asked what was his favorite part of managing The Inn is, Porterfield immediately said that “no two days are the same” and added that she loves helping people fall in love with the charms of Cedarburg. In 2020, in recognition of her work, she received the Cedarburg Chamber of Commerce Ladies Who Lead Hospitality Award, which was also recognized with a Commendation from the United States Congress.
Porterfield considers himself a personal Cedarburg concierge because, while the hotel is a gracious and beautiful place to stay, the friendly charm of the small town of Cedarburg itself is the Star. The hostel is located in the heart of the vibrant historic district and everything is within easy walking distance – restaurants, wineries, shops, cultural and entertainment venues and several museums. She and her staff are constantly updating their knowledge base on what’s new and interesting to discover and suggesting old favorites. The Inn hosts a monthly rotating art gallery in the beautiful lobby, showcasing the work of local artists and residents and Porterfield always welcomes visitors inside and to say hello.