My wife, Carole, planned a wonderful birthday weekend for me in Milwaukee. (No gifts please. Your readership and comments are gifts enough.) The trip included a Brewer’s game at Miller Park and a stay at one of the country’s coolest and best-run hotels, The Iron Horse. Carole announced that she had a surprise outing planned during our stay. Immediately, I thought…a tour of the Harley Davidson Museum or, better yet, enrollment in Harley’s Motorcycle Boot Camp. I imagined myself decked in black leather, boots, and a shiny helmet racing on a V-Rod, jumping canyons à la Evel Knievel. Instead, we drove down a pretty little country road to a quaint museum called Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot. Ten Chimneys is the famed estate of the iconic couple of theatre’s Golden Age, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. While not what I had envisioned, it was, indeed, a surprise and the experience was wonderful.
The Lunts staged their house as if it were a Broadway set. Each room is designed in a different motif, with a liveliness and style that lured Hollywood and Broadway luminaries. Rooms magically combine the garish with the elegant. Some rooms are named appropriately to reflect eras of the theatre. Others touch on humor like "The Flirtation Room." Bedrooms are named for beloved guests such as Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn, and Noël Coward.
The Lunts went to great lengths to make their guests feel welcome and to create for them memorable experiences. Guests were hosted in beautiful suites, wined, dined, entertained, and bestowed with gifts. The Lunts maintained that hospitality is all about thoughtful planning, theatricality, and attention to detail.
"Thoughtful planning, theatricality, and attention-to-detail.” The very pillars that caterers and hospitality professionals hold dear. They are also the foundation that makes The Iron Horse such a special hotel. So, while I didn't take Harley lessons, I did take a lesson from the famous couple: we should imagine ourselves as theatrical producers or directors. We set the stage and create the magic so that our clients may star. As they take their bows, we can await the best of all client requests: “Encore!’’