The Hotel that Almost Was
The Hampton Inn is getting closer and closer to opening, and with that, Warroad will soon have a grand new hotel. Warroad has had numerous hotels over the many years since its incorporation, but today for our first series on this blog, we'd like to focus on the many hotels that have dotted our downtown area since Warroad's earliest days. Our first entry will be focusing on the hotel that never saw the light of day.
Postcard of architectural drawing of Hotel Lake of the Woods, included in the Warroad Heritage Center archives.
In the first decade of Warroad's town history plans were made to build a 100-room hotel in downtown Warroad that would service the upper-class patrons who traveled by train through the area. Hotel Lake of the Woods (not to be confused with the former Lakewood Hotel on Main Avenue) would have two dining halls, a lobby, and interior anteroom; it would have a large dance hall and convention hall for events; its construction was expected to take up the entirety of a city block on three sides, stretching from Lake Street to Roberts Ave and Mackenzie Street. Today, it would reside on the southern edge of the old Fox Theater/Warroad Pioneer offices and ATM building, across the street from Security State Bank.
The hotel would, for lack of a better word, be an extravagance in downtown Warroad. The Warroad Plaindealer on 14 April 1910 featured a story on its frontpage about the construction of this hotel. Warroad Mayor Charles Moody, sometimes referred to as the Father of Warroad, believed the hotel would rocket Warroad to a must-visit location in the new millennia. He contacted Guy H. Powell from Chicago and formed the corporation: Warroad Realty Development Company (WRCD). The company was financed by the Security Trust Company of St. Paul with $40,000 stock. Today, that would amount to approximately $1,127,000.
In August 1910, construction began on the new hotel. Bert D. Keck of Crookston was the architect and George E. Kretz of Bemidji was the contractor. The plans originally outlined in the Warroad Plaindealer were changed by Keck, downsized to 66 rooms on the floors two and three, while the first floor would contain a "barber shop, barroom, grill-room ladies' parlor, waiting room, company office, and dining room."
So what happened? The plans were exquisite, the earth turned for building, and the financing all in place; so why was the hotel never completed?
Construction halted in the winter of 1910 and was planned to start back up the next spring. Attorney Powell, who began the WRDC with Mayor Charles Moody, returned with his family to Chicago that winter. The last note of him in the Plaindealer was a letter he wrote to Dr. A. E. McDonald that read: "I care very little what the people up there think as regards the hotel, as I know it will be built in the spring," (Roseau Times, 12/23/1910). This suggests that there were certain persons in the Warroad community who were displeased with the hotel, its construction, or some other detail of the proposed plans for Warroad's downtown.
The last mention of the Hotel Lake of the Woods was in January 1911. "Contractor Geo. E. Kretz is making arrangements to begin work on the new Hotel Lake of the Woods as early in the spring as the weather will permit, as he expects to make it his first job of the season. The building of the hotel will of course, bring many more people here during the summer season than at any time in the past," (Warroad Plaindealer, 01/12/1911). With that, the hotel and the WRDC are never mentioned again.
That spring, Mayor Moody was appointed by Governor Eberhart to work on the Minnesota Development Association, and he is frequently cited as the main force pushing the city to fund a complete overhaul of its sewage system. Perhaps the money for the hotel fell through; though, thousands of dollars were earned through the selling of stocks in the WRDC in the Twin Cities and Duluth. Perhaps there was a falling out between Moody and Powell; this is certainly a possibility, as Powell's tone at the end of 1911 seems unbothered by developments in the Warroad community. Perhaps someone took the money and ran, or construction could not be completed due to unforeseen problems, or the money was re-allocated for some other project.
Over 100 years later, we still do not know what happened to Hotel Lake of the Woods. All that remains are the few news blurbs about its construction, the beautiful architectural drawing postcard shown above, and the blueprints for the three-story grand hotel. The rest is yet unknown.
Have a theory on the mystery of Hotel Lake of the Woods? Let us know in the comments! And be sure to tell us what you think of our new blog.
-Erin Thompson, Museum Manager