Planning underway for Monterey Hotel


Despite the antennae atop the six-story, Art Deco monument, the historic nature of the hotel is obvious.

Since 1996, Janesville resident Jim Grafft has owned the hotel with hope of restoring the building to its original form.

Grafft, his daughter Britten and contractors from throughout southern Wisconsin are prepping the 88-year-old building for revitalization, Britten said.

"I've always wanted to be a part of the restoration of this hotel," she said. "Now the time is finally right to move forward."

And they're looking for help from Janesville residents to accurately restore the building.

The father and daughter, along with Isthmus Architecture of Madison and a handful of local contractors and architects, plan to bring the exterior of the building to its original "integrity," Britten said.

For the interior, they hope long-time Janesville residents can help by sharing memories or photographs of the hotel.

Britten, a senior architecture student at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., has spearheaded the newly energized revitalization plans for the hotel.

"Janesville residents have backed this hotel since the beginning," she said.

Residents in 1929 were asked to name the hotel through a Janesville Daily Gazette poll. And they helped fund the construction by purchasing bonds during the Great Depression.

After the hotel opened in 1930, it hosted some familiar names, such as Louis Armstrong, Eleanor Roosevelt and even Sen. John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie.

Britten said her father has spent 12 years working on and off to get the hotel ready for an overhaul.

Rather than resume operation as a hotel, Britten said, the plan is to change the building into a mixed residential and commercial space. They hope a restaurant would occupy much of the first level and apartments ranging from one bedroom to possibly four bedrooms would fill the floors above.

Plans won't be finalized until all the architectural assessments are complete.

Britten finished exterior site surveys Thursday, but she said there's not yet a timeline for construction. She anticipates interior work could start as early as this winter and exterior renovation might begin next summer.

"We're definitely headed in the right direction, finally," she said. "This is a really important, key step for downtown Janesville to succeed."

1929: "Monterey" is the winning name in a contest sponsored by The Janesville Daily Gazette for the city's newest hotel, a six-story Art Deco structure built on the site of the old Grand Hotel.

1930: The Monterey Hotel welcomes its first guests at a grand banquet.

1936: The company that issued bonds for the hotel declares bankruptcy. A group of residents becomes the new owner.

Mid-1950s: The Monterey is remodeled and a new entrance cut on High Street. Art Deco details and marble are ripped out. Architectural molding is plastered over, and terrazzo floors are carpeted.

1960: Sen. John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, spend a few hours at the Monterey Hotel during a campaign stop in Janesville. Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Luce and Louis Armstrong also reportedly had been guests.

1962: A partnership of three Janesville businessmen—Gene Obligato, Earl Fugate and Jim Cullen—buys the Monterey.

1960s and '70s: The Monterey is sold twice more. Under the first owner, the hotel gets a seedy reputation as a home to drifters and drunks, according to Gazette files. The second owner tries to clean up the hotel.

1977: Archie Johnson buys the hotel. His son Richard runs it as a residential hotel with maid service.

1983: A fire kills one tenant.

1989: Johnson sells the Monterey and the Orleans Restaurant to American Realty Constructors of San Francisco.

1990s: A group of California doctors buys the hotel. Plans are to use it for senior housing, but the building winds up in federal bankruptcy court.

1996: Jim Grafft buys the Monterey at a bankruptcy auction.

2008: Jim and Britten Grafft begin interior and exterior surveys, preparing the building for an overhaul that would restore it to its original form. Interior construction could start as early as winter 2008 and exterior work as soon as summer 2009.

Residents who have photos or memories of the Monterey Hotel can share them with Jim and Britten Grafft to help with a more accurate restoration of the building. Photos and memories can be e-mailed to Britten Grafft at or by mail to Britten Grafft, 3723 N. Edgewood Dr., Janesville, WI 53545. does not condone or review every comment. Read more in our Commenter Policy Agreement

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