Madison House/Hotel Trumpf/Hotel Washington

636 W. Washington Ave.     Built 1905     Burned February 18, 1996     Madison Landmark     Jennings & Kronenberg
Hotel Washington – Owner Rodney Scheel
Businesses within: New Bar (1984-96), Rod's Club (1979-96), Club de Wash, Cafe Palms, Barber's Closet, The New Bar

Site Traces From 1885 Business - “By 1885 a frame hotel stood on this site...” Double Take
  • 1885 The site of a hotel called the Madison House.
  • 1904 E.G. Trumpf assumed ownership
  • 1906 After a fire Trumpf converted the wooden building to brick. He installed a bar and restaurant, calling it the Hotel Trumpf.
  • 1916 Trumpf sold to August Harbort, who renamed it the Hotel Washington. The hotel changed hands several times before Louis Wagner bought it in 1961. Wagner, a Russian immigrant and colorful owner of a State Street restaurant as well, ran the building for 14 years. It changed from a railway hotel when the depot closed in 1969 to a home for transients and people on welfare.
  • 1975 Rodney Scheel, then 25, purchased the building, pledging to embark upon an ambitious project to remodel the basement, a former barbershop, shower room, speakeasy, and bar. Scheel, who called the hotel's decor “1890s to 1920s” turned out to become one of Madison's most prominent businessmen, as well as a popular gay activist. After Scheel's death, his brother, Greg Scheel took over the business.
  • 1975 Fire. The Wisconsin Light - February 29, 1996


    February 18, 1996 – Madison, WI
    Just a few days before the fire, the Hotel Washington's profile had been substantially raised by a cover story that appeared in the Rhythm section of both daily newspapers. “On any night of the week,” Natasha Kassulke wrote, “a walk through the businesses at the Hotel Washington complex ... is like entering a Disney World for drinkers, dancers and diners.”

    Fire officials determined that an ashtray emptied into a wastebasket in the office of the Cafe Palms caused the fire.

    Attempts to rebuild failed
    The city of Madison, a local bank and the Scheel family gave it their best shot. But plans to rebuild the Hotel Washington succumbed to a series of setbacks and increasing costs. Greg Scheel withdrew applications with Capitol Bank and the city for loans to rebuild the downtown entertainment mecca.

    In the old days politicians stashed mistresses at the Washington and “Dogskin” Johnson was staying there in 1911 when the police arrested him on suspicion of murdering young Annie Lemberger.