the details

Iron Horse details WAVphoto

Iron Horse details WAVphoto

Years ago I was given a gift. The giver presented it to me saying,
“you’re such a visual person, I thought you’d like this.” I liked her
sentiments more and those words have stuck with me over ten years.

It’s true. I am a visual person. I used to think everyone saw what I saw
until I began using a camera. I still scratch my head in wonder when
people ask, ‘how did you see that?’ (With all respect & love in my heart,
‘how did you NOT see that’?)

I see the way light plays with objects creating dark shadows.
I notice shape and texture. The details speak to me.

The details.

Iron Horse details WAVphoto

I recently visited The Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The details were incredible from the moment the valet greeted & escorted me to
the check-in desk where I was welcomed by a friendly smile and a
freshly poured signature cocktail. Yes. The details are not overlooked.

My husband was due to meet me at the bar after his flight arrived in
Milwaukee. He arrived as the long-awaited sun came out on a warm
spring afternoon. I kindly asked our fantastic waitress if the outdoor bar
was open. “The Yard” was not open yet for the season – but sensing
our desire to enjoy a drink outside she promptly gathered our beverages, escorted us outside and secured two stools. Perfect. She checked on
us & as the wind picked up, re-established our place inside.

We walked through the set of a magazine photo shoot next – kidding,
it just seemed like it. The restaurant, Smyth, ready for dining had oil lamps
lit in Mason jars…everywhere. It was magical, comfortable, inviting.

Iron Horse lobby details WAVphoto

Iron Horse lobby details

The Iron Horse Hotel is a 100 year old warehouse transformed into a luxury boutique hotel. A fusion of ‘industrial-era form and modern day function’
(from Iron Horse website). ‘Iron Horse’ is a term used for old trains and
part of the charm remains as the hotel is on active train tracks. In each guest room there’s a package of ear plugs in case the noise of the train is disturbing.
(it wasn’t).

The room was a mix of texture – leather headboard, iron art, exposed glass shower wall and cream city brick. I had the most comfortable pillow I’ve ever slept on. If you’ve come to town for a business meeting or arrived on your Harley – the Iron Horse Hotel seems to accommodate all. (including dogs) Details.

Breakfast in the Smyth didn’t disappoint at all. Service was prompt, friendly, great coffee and food. Back to arousal of my senses with details. The coffee was served in the most perfect, white mug. The interior designer knew what they were doing as the little details all got along including the hammered stems on the silverware, the photographs on the walls, the nails on the cushioned chairs.

Iron Horse library details WAVphoto

Iron Horse library details

It was early on Sunday morning when we walked into the Library. I would have spent the entire day there if possible. The leather couches surround a coffee table that almost asks to rest your feet on it. A fireplace tucked into a corner pleads a longer stay. A peek out the long windows reveals the train tracks and, yes, the cars passing below. The library is host to the most beautiful photographic images of Route 66 made by Thomas Ferderbar, a local artist. Each was framed beautifully.

Iron Horse details Tom Ferderbar photographs of Route 66 WAVphoto

Iron Horse details
Tom Ferderbar photographs of Route 66

I later found out about the “Book Now” program where guests are
welcomed & encouraged to leave books in their room or in the library
upon departure. The books are donated to the Literary Services of
Wisconsin program for those learning to read.

I am a visual person. I notice the details.
All my senses were alive at the Iron Horse Hotel. Green apples
in a bowl, industrial gears on the side table, the rope swing in
front of the giant flag, the perfect smell, a combination of leather,
wood and fresh.

The sign of a great place to me is the desire to return.
To linger among the details.
I’ve been told I’m a visual person.


The Iron Horse Hotel
Milwaukee, Wisconsin





‘start small & begin promptly’

I love it when I look at something and am instantly inspired! A small
photograph in a frame – is obviously something important. Reading
the caption behind the glass case I learned this small shed
was in a backyard in Milwaukee, Wisconsin about 110 years ago.

The shed belonged to a family named Davidson.

If I added the fact that ‘serial number one’ motorcycle
was built in that little building with a friend named Harley
you might start to piece together, Harley-Davidson.

Harley & the Davidsons

Harley & the Davidsons

The Harley-Davidson brand is known in every corner of the world,
easily recognizable on most highways especially in the warmer months.
Over 3.5 million (2002) motorcycles have graced roads, fields,
race tracks, police lines, postal routes and even the front lines in
two World Wars.

I just visited the Harley-Davidson museum where this photograph hangs and what impressed me the most that day was enthusiasm for everything Harley,
a familiar brand that started in this tiny space, a 10 x 15′ shed.

Harley is not just a brand of motorcycle or rider, it seems to be part of life for those who choose to breathe in that air.  It’s a culture.  I saw it in the excitement of a staff member who was thrilled to share his knowledge
of the layout of the building so we wouldn’t miss any exhibit. He loved his job, anyone could see it.

An exhibit, ‘Living Lost’ – photographs from the front seat of a Harley on a cross-country ride. Gritty in open nature, greasy from side of the road repairs, soft in the future generation of HOGs (the term used for Harley Owner Groups), this display showed the camaraderie among riders.

The evolution of fuel tanks ranging in color – looked very much like my memory of a vast display of butterflies. The ‘Wall of Tanks’ was clean & simple yet spoke loud in volume of history, longevity and miles of open road.

Harley-Davidson wall of tanks

Harley-Davidson wall of tanks

One of the most moving pieces I’ve seen in any museum was the ‘Tsunami motorcycle display’. When the devastating wave hit Japan in March 2011 a motorcycle in a container was washed out to sea. The container drifted 4,000 miles and washed ashore on the coast of British Columbia. It was found in May. Inside the container was a Harley, the Japanese license plate still intact. Finally tracking down the owner who survived, it was learned many in his family perished, his home lost.  The owner asked if his Harley could be donated to the museum in Milwaukee as a memorial to those who were lost. The motorcycle is encased in glass in the same condition it was found, the salt water corrosion continues to make progress.

tsunami motorcycle display

tsunami motorcycle display

The structure of the museum is steel, strong & sturdy, held together by rivets.
‘A rivet is the strongest bond that holds things like I-beams and jeans together. A rivet is exposed to the elements & takes on whatever nature throws at it’ (from the Harley-Davidson website).

I’ve been a visitor to a few Harley events – they’ve always intrigued me – viewing the common thread of Harley; the camaraderie between thousands of owners & riders, the feeling of freedom on the road & being connected by a unique energy & culture, being exposed to the elements & taking on whatever nature throws your way.

And to think every time you hear the roar on the back road or highway – it all began in a 10 x 15′ shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

www . Harley-Davidson . com