View of the Cliffbreakers Hotel from the banks of the Rock river
View of the Rock river from my room at the Cliffbreakers Hotel
For starters, Cliffbreakers looks as if it dates from either the 17th, 18th, 19th, or 20th centuries (but not the 21st - no chrome and glass at all).
My first thought upon walking into the lobby was that the place had to have been a hunting lodge dating from the 19th century that was currently being updated with a bit of remodeling.
The ceiling and balcony railing in the lobby of the Cliffbreakers
However, the receptionist corrected me. The Cliffbreakers history begins in 1993, when Jim Vitale opened the Cliffbreakers restaurant. The restaurant was a success and Jim followed it up four years later by opening the hotel right next door.
And to decorate the hotel, Mr. Vitale decided to utilize his collection of antiques.
Mr. Vitale was an avid collector of antiques, but not your run-of-the-mill household antiques. He liked the grand and opulent, and had people around the world keeping their eyes open for furnishings. art, and statuary from more that just households - he wanted what was in old hotels, public buildings such as train stations, and ancient manor houses of the landed gentry.
He sold the Cliffbreakers in 2006, and some of the antiques have been sold off in the past 11 years by the succeeding ownership groups.
However, quite a bit of Jim Vitale's collection of antiques bought from historic properties in New York, Illinois, and even England & Italy remain, and the new owners of the property plan to not only renovate but to restore to it's former glory, the restaurant and hotel that Jim Vitale had originally envisioned.
And from what I was able to see, they are doing a damn good job of it.
Jim Vitale was more a preservationist than an antique collector in my eyes. He built a museum disguised as a hotel full of unique, extremely high quality pieces/examples of the work of talented artists and craftspeople, and put them on display for the world to see.
The property is now in the hands of people determined to make it the Jewel of east Illinois, if not the entire midwest. If you are ever within an hour or two of Rockford and need a place to stay, I can't recommend Cliffbreakers strongly enough.
So spend a night or two at Cliffbreakers - heck, you might even find a secret door or two.