Hotel Northland: A Legacy for the Ages - WBAY

Hotel Northland: A Legacy for the Ages

Updated:
Green Bay -

NOTE: See Part 2 of the story Thursday on Action 2 News at 10.

As Green Bay's downtown is in the midst of a major facelift, one of its oldest and most historic buildings sits empty.

The former Hotel Northland was the epicenter of life, politics and sports at the intersection of luxury and pride.

"If you weren't connected to the Northland, you weren't connected," recalled Roger Skaletski who cleared tables at the Hotel Northland from 1948-50.

The doors of the Northland opened in March 1924. The front page of the Green Bay Press Gazette described the opening as Green Bay's "million dollar hotel" detailing how the first event would bring 100 guests from Milwaukee by train.

"Some of the most significant people historically either lived here or stayed here," Roger Retzlaff said, chairman of Green Bay's Historic Preservation Commission.

The hotel operated from 1924 to 1979. It was the era of lavish parties, 15 cent french fries and $8.50 rooms.

"There was a ramp down into the main kitchen," Skaletski described as we were in the ballroom. "Mae Smith would stand there almost like with her whip and make sure you'd get the food up here on time and hot."

The people who once stepped foot inside the Northland could be a story in itself.

"If there were speakers, a lot of the presidential candidates were here throughout the decades," Victoria Parmentier said, president of R.E. Management which manages the hotel.

Names like J.F.K., Richard Nixon and James Arness entered the hotel, not to mention NFL teams and Packers elite. On game day as a teenager, Skaletski would often deliver meals to Curly Lambeau.

"If you were on duty and you got to take up the meal for Curly and his four or five guests, you better have hoped they won," Skaletski said.

Politics didn't hide from these walls either. It was a late-night visit in March 1968 that made headlines when Sen. Ted Kennedy flew to Green Bay and inside the Northland told Eugene McCarthy his brother Robert was entering the race for president.

"I was awakened about three in the morning by a call," McCarthy was quoted as saying, who says he talked with Kennedy for about 35 minutes.

It's the memories of the Hotel Northland that have lived on for decades.

"One of the highlights of my whole life, and I've been very fortunate, was working at the Northland Hotel," Skaletski said.

Ironically it was the construction of the Port Plaza Mall that finally ended the hotel's legacy, turning it into senior housing in 1979. Now with the mall demolished, and a new phase coming to Green Bay's downtown, city leaders believe they're on the brink of new life for the Northland.

Find on why in Part 2 of our Target 2 On Assignment report - Thursday on Action 2 News at 10.

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