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van der Tuuk, Alex; Mack, Angela; Schmitz, Melissa / Paramount walking tour : Village of Grafton, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin

The Grafton Hotel

The Grafton Hotel
1312 Wisconsin Avenue
Photo of an original painting owned by Rob Ruvin who plans on
restoring the historic building.
The three-story building adjacent to the Plaza is the Grafton Hotel. A lot of
mystery still surrounds where the many recording artists stayed during their trips
to Grafton. Most of the African American artists probably stayed in Milwaukee
after a day's recording session in Grafton. However a few indicated staying in
Grafton. In a 1965 interview, Son House claimed:
"There was a hotel, small hotel, two story (sic. three-story), that was special for all the
recorders. And they give Charley a hundred dollars for me, him, Willie and Louise to buy ciga-
rettes, sandwiches and to get us drinks. He d ask you how many songs do you have in mind that
you gonna play? Well, at that time, he was paying 15 dollars a side for 10 inch records. I got
40 dollars for mine. People back home was working for 75 cents a day. I thought that was big."
And there's this excerpt from Stephan Calt's biography on Skip James,
I'd Rather Be the Devil:
"Together they rode an electric train to Grafton, a small town twenty miles north of
Milwaukee. Laibly escorted him to a local hotel, where he was to rest before the session began
in the afternoon. Before leaving James, Laibly asked him how many records he could make. 'As
many as you want,'James replied. Soon James fell asleep. At eleven a bellhop woke him and
took him to a cafi, where Laibly bought his lunch. As James ate, the 3 7-year old recording direc-
tor explained the financial details of the recording session..."
The PBS show, "History Detectives"
filmed the Grafton Hotel in 2006.
Photo courtesy ofAngela Mack
Now you'll want to stand at the north end of the plaza and let's look at some of
the buildings in the area, beginning with the one across the street to your left.

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