Polish for a 'diamond in the rough'

Ruvin wants to return historic Grafton Hotel to a place of prominence

Grafton Hotel in the Milwaukee Business Journal

On a recent Sunday morning, Rob Ruvin gave his 6-year-old daughter, Madeline, a tour of the Grafton Hotel, a historic but neglected structure that he plans to redevelop.

In recent decades, the 1892-vintage hotel housed a bar, restaurant and banquet rooms — most recently under the name Ferrante’s — and three apartments on the top floor. At some point, the exterior’s original design flourishes were removed, including a turret and arched windows. The interior reeks of stale smoke and beverages and the walls are covered with 1970s-vintage wood paneling.

After Ruvin and his daughter left the building, she expressed her relief at returning to the fresh air and daylight.

Ruvin, on the other hand, was exhilarated at the prospect of converting the Grafton Hotel from an eyesore on a prominent corner into a centerpiece for a new village square. His one-man firm, Ruvin Development Inc. of Mequon, specializes in restoration projects that others avoid, frequently one step ahead of the wrecking ball.

“I don’t think people place a high enough value on history, and there’s a limited amount of historic building stock that we have left,” Ruvin said while standing in the vacant Grafton Hotel bar.

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