The historic Raulf Hotel, located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, has served as a prominent landmark of the community for just under a century. A product of the 1920s, the iconic hotel once towered over the city as one of the tallest structures of the Oshkosh skyline. Complete with 160 rooms, a bowling alley and movie theater, travelers of all kinds flocked to the trendy spot to experience the hype for themselves. Even the late John F. Kennedy stopped in for some respite during his presidential campaign. Its unique architecture and alluring style led architects of its time to classify it as one of the finest structures in the state. After some turnover in ownership, and as the needs of visitors shifted, the building was converted to public housing in the 1980s. By way of the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (HTC), the structure has since undergone a much-needed facelift, restoring it to its original vibrant character and reigniting its benefit to the community as the new affordable housing development, the Raulf Place Apartments.
A Brief History
The original Raulf Hotel opened its doors in the Spring of 1928, welcoming a swarm of enthusiastic guests who had been eagerly awaiting its grand opening as word of the impressive building spread throughout the state. The hotel was ten stories tall, boasting 160 rooms and spanning 140 feet from the ground level up. At the time, it was one of the tallest buildings on the Oshkosh skyline. In fact, guests could see the entire city from the top reaching well beyond the glistening blue waters of Lake Winnebago. The historic Raulf Hotel was revered for its outstanding adaptation of the Moorish East Indian architectural style, exemplified almost solely by its stunning terra cotta façade. Its design was unique to the area as most of the surrounding buildings were of Italian influence. This, paired with its captivating vertical emphasis, monopolized the attention of anyone who passed through its portion of Main Street. The hotel was also home to a bowling alley and the Strand Theatre, the city’s leading movie palace.
After a lucrative 40-year run, the Raulf Hotel closed its doors in 1967 following the growing popularity and practicality of smaller, cheaper motels. The hotel would operate under the new name Picasso Plaza featuring reproductions of Pablo Picasso’s artwork, a rock and roll bar and a senior center until its sale in 1973, reestablishing it for the third time as the Plaza Motor Inn. The frequent change in ownership that followed Hotel Raulf’s closure resulted in plans to convert the once-bustling and prosperous hotel into affordable housing for locals.
About the Rehabilitation
During the rehabilitation, the original structure of the historic Raulf Hotel was reconditioned and renovated as an affordable apartment community. Meticulous steps were taken to ensure the preservation of the hotel’s history while still making the improvements necessary for quality housing. The number of units was reduced to 104, freeing up space for the addition of 14 two-bedroom units. The remaining one-bedroom units underwent total renovations, including new kitchens, bathrooms, flooring and doors. In homage to the old hotel, a small theater was created in what was once the hotel’s laundry room. The original windows in the new theater room were preserved following historic requirements, undergoing minor repairs. To bring in more natural light, solar tubes were installed on the first, second and third floors, creating a much more inviting space for events and gatherings. Elevators were upgraded, and new heating and central air units were installed, along with new plumbing systems. A fitness center was added, and the dining room was completely remodeled with a 60s theme to reflect the building’s historic nature.
Raulf Place Apartments & Community Impact
The new Raulf Place Apartments consist of 104 one and two-bedroom affordable apartment units. Featuring new appliances, open common areas for group gatherings, a new fitness center and a small movie theater, the apartment community is now a great place for Oshkosh locals to call home. An elderly nutrition program is also in place, offering weekday lunches and a wellness nurse to provide education as well as check-up and referral services for senior residents. The apartments also employ an onsite social worker to help applicants navigate the enrollment process and sustain successful residency. The historic rehabilitation of the Raulf Hotel into the Raulf Place Apartments not only helps preserve a significant piece of the city’s ancestry but it provides valuable resources to residents and sets the tone for further revitalization in the Oshkosh area.
This project was made possible by the Oshkosh Housing Authority, Monarch Private Capital, Dimension Development, LLC, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, and Bank First – Oshkosh.