One Tank Trips: Kohler

April 28, 2009 (KOHLER, Wis.) These are fun places you can visit on a tank of gas.


A small village in Wisconsin three hours north of Chicago has a resort hotel, tours of several factories that make large kitchen and bathroom appliances and an incredible, three-level design center.

It's part of our everyday routine, from the moment we wake up until we retire for the night! If you've ever wondered what goes into the making of large appliances, head north to Kohler, Wisconsin. This town of less than 2,000 people, spanning only five square miles, is home to the Kohler Company - a name synonymous with innovative kitchen and bath products.

'The Kohler Company started actually as an iron foundry and they made farm implement equipment," said Cindy Howley, manager, Kohler Design Center. "In the early 1900s, a farmer asked if his hog trough could be enameled and he could use it as a tub… So, in return for 14 chickens, voila! There was the first tub!"

John Michael Kohler started the company in 1873. Today, it is one of the largest family-run companies in the country. A visit to Kohler starts at the design center and what is known as "the great wall of China!" You'll learn more about the family history and early day products. Then it's on to a 2 1/2 hour walking tour of the factories, where they make those marvelous sinks, tubs and toilets!

The pottery building is where the clay molds are made.

"After about 60 minutes, the mold can be opened up, and the finished clay pieces are ready for the next step, which is the drying process," said Scott Schaetz, superintendent, Wisconsin Pottery.

The heat and humidity is so, employees are allowed to work shirtless! The pieces are glazed and sent through the kiln for 20 hours at 2,300 degrees!

Next door, the metal fixtures are made at the foundry. The iron is melted down. At 2,600 degrees, the molten mixture is poured into the molds. Then, they make stainless steel sinks. The iron solidifies in 30 seconds!

Destination Kohler is a lot more than the factory tour. The American Club is a five-diamond resort hotel that was originally built for the Kohler employees!

"Immigrants came to Kohler in the early 1900s, and they were housed at the American Club, and at the American Club they were able to take classes on becoming citizens," Howley said.

In 1978, renovations began to convert the facility to a luxury resort hotel with 240 guest rooms, each one unique, each one with a Kohler whirlpool!

There is a Heritage Suite - big bathroom - the shower is called a body spa. It has body sprays, a foot bath and a waterfall! Even the whirlpool has a waterfall.

Next to the American Club, is the Kohler Waters Spa, a place to restore and replenish your body with a variety of water therapies and treatments and massage. Just as popular, four championship golf courses, in fact, the 2010 PGA will be returning to Whistling Straits.

Whether you're shopping, relaxing or touring, one trip to Kohler and you'll have a whole new appreciation for that porcelain throne!

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