‘This is what I envisioned’: Months into restoration process, Janesville’s Monterey Hotel is a blank slate

JANESVILLE, Wis. – Just over two months into an aggressive restoration effort, the 92-year old Monterey Hotel in Janesville is a blank slate.

In December, building owner Jim Grafft toured News 3 Now through the building, which at the time had been sitting vacant since Grafft purchased it 25 years prior.

By Friday, the building’s interior was unrecognizable. Crumbling peeling walls had been torn down and removed, as well as just about every other feature not supporting the building.

Grafft says now, the stage is set work to begin on the 51 luxury apartments that will soon call that building home.

This is what I envisioned 25 years ago when I bought the building,” Grafft said. “That this is what was going to have to happen. Torn down to the outside perimeter walls and then rebuilt.”

The building owner says the developer, West Allis-based Cardinal Capital Management, is about a week away from applying for necessary construction permits from the city.

I’ll be happy when I see mattresses moving in the door,” Grafft said. “There’s a long ways between now and then, but the structure’s up, the structure is sound. Rain isn’t going to bother us. Snow’s not going to bother us. We’re in it until it’s done now.” 

The structure of the building has remained solid throughout the restoration of the project- which contractors credit to the quality construction of the building nearly 100 years ago.

To me, it’s neat looking at the tradesmen who put in blood sweat tears that made it happen,” said site superintendent Paul Kemp. “Now we’re coming back and seeing their work that you haven’t seen ‘29. Some of the things that were unseen, or above ceilings, things that nobody’s put their eye on since ‘29.”

Kemp says while he’s done a number of projects throughout the Midwest, restoring the Monterey Hotel has been personal.

“A lot of people have been through the building throughout its life, including myself,” he said. “The last time I was here was 1985-1990, we used to have banquet dinners here at the old New Orleans club, so we have the privilege now of coming back. I was here while it was open, now I have the privilege of coming back and seeing it get restored.”

Work will continue through the fall, with the expectation the apartments could open in 2022.

I think this is probably the most architecturally significant project in Janesville in a long time,” Grafft said. “It was built by the community back in its day. It’s a standing testing to the quality of how it was built back then. We’re planning to see it bigger and better.”