A Foggy Day in London Town
One of the area’s premiere bed and breakfasts, Astor House travels the world.
By Brenda Ericson - Green Bay News-Chronicle May 30, 2004
Sometimes it’s easy to visit faraway places without traveling too far from home. That’s the beauty of imagination. And in Green Bay, travel fantasies can be further fueled by a relaxing visit to Astor House, where owners Greg and Barbara Robinson offer a chance to trek to 19th century London, the French countryside, or exotic Hong Kong, washing cares away all the while with luxuries like vast whirlpool baths (easily big enough for more than one person), roaring fireplaces and a chilled bottle of wine.
The Robinsons bought the bed and breakfast in 1997, after falling hard for a similar retreat in Door County. “We loved it so much,” Robinson said, “and we thought, ‘what a great lifestyle.’ It put the possibility of purchasing a B&B in our minds.”
The couple made annual treks back to that favorite Door County bed and breakfast, and when it went on the market, they immediately started investigating what it would take to buy it. And although they ultimately passed at purchasing that Door County retreat, they continued to pursue the project, taking classes geared toward bed and breakfast owners and staying at B&B’s throughout the state, comparing features and finding out what the best establishments had to offer.
When the Astor House came on the market, the Robinsons decided it was the one they’d been waiting for. “We realized this place had it all,” said Robinson, whose background as an operations manager at Milwaukee’s WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, followed by a two decade stint with Wisconsin Public Television, provided him with the attention to detail required to run the Astor House.
Because Barbara still works in Madison and only spends weekends in Green Bay, it’s Greg who manages most of the day-to-day details of the establishment, including setting his alarm for 5:15 am, when he heads for the kitchen to create a beefed-up continental breakfast that includes coffee, tea, juice, milk, fruit items such as broiled grapefruit, apple with caramel sauce and strawberry French toast, as well as muffins, bagels and specialty breads from a local bakery.
The previous owners spent a few weeks getting the Robinsons acclimated to the routine, but their first few nights alone were reflective of what the pair could expect as innkeepers in Titletown.
“It was the start of Packer season, and our second night here we had a house full of guests,” Robinson said. “That was trial by fire!”
The five rooms at the Astor House travel the world, from the popular London Room, decorated in serene shades of rust, olive and cream and featuring Brit books for fireside readers, to the cool, lacquered elegance of the Hong Kong Retreat.
The Astor House boasts three other rooms: the Marseilles Garden, a sunny space decked out with climbing vines, brick walls and a large tile tub; the Laredo Room, a southwestern-themed room decorated in soothing desert tones; and the Vienna Balconies, a room with sitting area, loft bedroom and an outdoor balcony that overlooks the back yard.
Contemporary amenities at the Astor House include small refrigerators in every room, high-speed Internet access, telephones, cable TV, VCR’s, air conditioning, CD players and daily maid service. Three rooms have both whirlpool baths and fireplaces, while the Laredo Room features a fireplace, and the Vienna Balconies has a large whirlpool.
“Business travelers, vacationers and couples in need of a little R&R make up the bulk of the guests at the Astor House,” said Robinson. “It’s a nice place to step out of your world for a little while,” he added. “And we’ve saved more than one marriage!”
The Astor House was built in 1888 on land owned by businessman and Titanic victim John Jacob Astor, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Previous owners of the house include Dr. Julius Bellin, founder of Bellin Memorial Hospital, and Adolph Watermolen, a local attorney.
The Astor House, located at 637 S. Monroe Avenue in Green Bay, is open year-round.