Wisconsin Historical Society

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Architecture and History Inventory
13 E DIVISION ST, 1 N MAIN ST | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:Hotel Retlaw
Other Name:Ramada Plaza Hotel
Reference Number:16727
Location (Address):13 E DIVISION ST, 1 N MAIN ST
County:Fond du Lac
City:Fond du Lac
Unincorporated Community:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
Year Built:1922
Additions: 1986 1926 1934 1976 1923
Survey Date:1988
Historic Use:hotel/motel
Architectural Style:Neoclassical
Structural System:
Wall Material:Brick
Other Buildings On Site:
Demolished Date:
National/State Register Listing Name: Hotel Retlaw
National Register Listing Date:9/7/1984 12:00:00 AM
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989 12:00:00 AM
National Register Multiple Property Name:
Additional Information:A 'site file' exists for this property. It contains additional information such as correspondence, newspaper clippings, or historical information. It is a public record and may be viewed in person at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation. Built by Immel Construction Co. The eight-story Neoclassical revival styled brick and stone hotel features symmetrical facades with regular patterned window fenestration. The first two floors exhibit a light colored stone facade regularly appointed by rectangular pilasters. The pilasters support a similarly treated entablature with simple architrave, frieze and corbelled cornice, located at the top of the second floor. Another horizontal band of stone coursing with a projecting cornice runs across the facade at the top of the seventh floor level. A similar but more pronounced cornice is located at the top of the eight floor level. Window tracery consists of quoin-like stone patterns surrounding each window opening, from the third floor up.

The Hotel Retlaw is a largely intact example of a 1920s era Neoclassical revival styled large hotel. The exterior facade has not been visably altered since its construction, in 1922. Though the rooms have been enlarged, thereby reducing the original number from 265 guest rooms to 138, the architectural appearance has not been compromised.

More important than its Classical Revival details is the significance this building has as a type of building, a large, multi-story hotel building in a small city. Hotels of this type are more frequently seen in larger communities. That such a hotel exists is significant, as this hotel, still in operation, has provided Fond du Lac with first-class hotel facilities in a large and first-class hotel building.

The Hotel at 1 North Main Street was originally named the Hotel Retlaw when it was constructed in 1922-23. The name was derived from the former owner's own first name, "Walter" spelled backwards. Walter Schroeder also owned the Retlaw Theatre at 23 South Main, which was built in 1925. The Immel Construction Company of Fond du Lac built the hotel at the strategic intersection of Main and Division. Several famous guests stayed at the hotel, including Janet Gaynor (1933); Eleanor Roosevelt (1937); heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Dempsey; cowboy singer, Gene Autry; and bandleader Clyde McCoy. John and Jacqueline Kennedy stayed here during the 1960s. The infamous also stayed at the Retlaw, including mafia gangster, Joe Bonanno. In 1964, the hotel was sold to Nick and Albert Frank for $300,000.00 Charles and Barnum and Melvin Lynn bought it in 1976 and invested $3,000,000 on remodeling. FDL Investors, Inc. purchased the hotel in 1983, and using UDAG monies again renovated the eight story ediface. In that renovation, a new parking ramp was constructed adjacant to the structure.

The Retlaw is located on a prominent intersection of two main vehicular arteries (Main Street and Division Street). Its central location in the heart of the commercial business district gave the hotel a pivotal role in the development of downtown. Visiting dignitaries most likely would stay at the Retlaw, and it would be the site of press conferences and meetings. Several social clubs and fraternal organizations held monthly meetings there, also. The Retlaw is the last and longest surviving examples of the big hotels which were significant in the history of Fond du Lac.

Its size, location, prominent guests, and important local service club meeting place made the Retlaw a landmark building in the city's downtown commercial district. No other hotel in Fond du Lac even comes close to the size and significance of this important building.
Bibliographic References:(A) Fond du Lac Daily Commonwealth Reporter, Aug. 28, 1987; Jan. 28, 1986,; May 10, 1985; Nov. 19, 1978. (B) Fond du Lac Daily Commonwealth, Mar. 2, 1923. (D) FOND DU LAC TALKING HOUSES AND HISTORIC PLACES BROCHURE, FOND DU LAC CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU. THE REPORTER 8/29/1996. Oshkosh Northwestern 2/18/1997. Fond du Lac Reporter 5/7/2003.
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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