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A day in Kohler history … 100 years since breaking ground at The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin

At the turn of the 20th century, many Kohler Co. associates immigrated to the U.S. in search of a better life. Leaving behind their homeland and families, these men didn’t speak English and rented unsuitable houses just to make ends meet.

Kohler history

Workers at the Kohler factory in the early 20th century – many of them immigrants from Europe.

Walter J. Kohler Sr., President of Kohler Co., envisioned an elaborate establishment for these associates that would not only provide affordable accommodations, but would create a support system for the immigrant workers so they could thrive both personally and professionally.
On May 17, 1917, builders broke ground on this vision. The construction of The American Club® would forever change the physical and ideological landscape of the Village of Kohler and Kohler Co.

Located across from the factory gates, the building would include bedrooms, dining areas for daily meals, reading rooms, a tap room, barber shop and bowling alley. While its future residents would live there to save money, they also would participate in English grammar, civic and citizenship classes.
But it was more than a dormitory. According to Walter himself, “The name ‘American Club’ was decided upon as it was thought that, with high standards of living and clean healthful recreation, it would be a factor in inculcating in the men of foreign
antecedents a love for their adopted country.”

The American Club opened in June 1918 and was quickly filled with more than 250 hopeful associates dreaming of a new and better life. One hundred years after its groundbreaking, The American Club continues to emulate gracious living to those who enter its doors. Transformed into a five-diamond resort in 1981, the spirit and courage of those who dared to charter the unknown will always remain a part of its legacy.

To learn more from Kohler’s history – visit our Kohler History page.