From its beginning in 1918, the American Club, in Kohler, Wisconsin, has always been a destination. For the first part of the twentieth century it attracted immigrants who brought their skills to America to work for the Kohler Company. For the latter half of the twentieth century and now into the twenty-first, the American Club entices immigrants of a different sort-those in search of luxury in the lap of history.
The American Club was conceived by Walter Kohler, son of the founder of the diversified plumbing company, as proper living quarters for European artisans crucial to Kohler's success. Far from Spartan, the Tudor-style building had the best of plumbing (but, of course) and served food described as "healthy and copious." The building's design and legacy are enough for its inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
In the American Club's reincarnation as a luxury-hotel destination, begun in 1981, the food and drink are copious and refined, the rooms are still equipped with the best of plumbing (but, of course). Yet the possibilities of the experience have expanded immensely to include golf at the Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run facilities (72 holes), fishing, hunting, horseback riding, kayaking at the River Wildlife Club and the Kohler Waters Spa. Coupled with the Kohler Design Center and the factory tour, they fill up the days and the senses. This August, Kohler's Whistling Straits Golf Club plays host to the PGA Championship. In 2012, Blackwolf Run will host the U.S. Women's Open.
The hotel has just completed another phase of renovation, which redid 109 of the 240 rooms. All the newest of Kohler bathroom offerings have been installed. In some rooms that means introducing the DTV-the digital thermal valve programmable shower-which allows its user to set times, temperatures and the nature of flow from the many heads. There are nine-foot Soak Tubs, and Bubble Massage Tubs that produce Champagne-like bubbles. The rooms are furnished with products from Kohler's many companies-Kallista, Baker, Mark David, McGuire and Ann Sacks-providing a showcase of luxury living.
The food experience is nearly as integral to its allure as the rooms. The Immigrant Restaurant is the award-winning fine dining restaurant (Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence), purveying the expected high end of cuisine, including flights of Wisconsin artisan cheeses. The Wisconsin Room is the breakfast, brunch and dinner facility set in the original dining hall. Wiener Schnitzel Holstein with spaeztle, fried egg and sage brown butter sauce is a menu stalwart. A Friday night seafood buffet has become a tradition popular with the locals. The Horse & Plow is a pub-style restaurant with an extensive offering of beer and ale. The Craverie Chocolatier Café showcases Kohler chocolates and offers a menu divided into lean and indulgent categories.
"It's been an institution and I'm thankful we have been able to preserve it with much of its original character," said company champion Herbert V. Kohler. "You could say that the philosophy and history of our company is embodied here." It's darned comfortable, too.