- The First Seventy-five Years in the Sanborn Community (1878-1953) -
Numerous Fine Hotels in 1890
It seems strange to be writing about Sanborn’s hotels, when today we don’t have a single hotel. We do have two fine motels, four good cafes, and two taverns, in the place of the early hotels and restaurants. When Sanborn was in its heyday it boasted of having more hotels than many larger towns, five or six being in operation. As the years passed, some of these became business houses or residences, some were destroyed by fire or wind. When the Omer hotel was torn down in 1949, first known as the Roden hotel, Sanborn lost an old landmark and its last hotel. The early hotels frequently changed their name with the advent of a new owner or proprietor.
The Jenkins House was first known as the Hillier House, being built by Mr. Hillier, early in 1879. It was operated by the Farrell family. Frank Jenkins bought this property from Mr. Hillier in May 1879, and A.W. Creed was the first manager. Later Mr. Jenkins sold the property to Mr. Hoyt who operated it for a few years. This building cost $2,000.00 and the equipment $500.00. It was located at the south end of Main street on the east side. It is now the John Mulder Fix-it Shop. Pirie and Anderson had a tailor shop in this building for over 50 years. Mr. James Pirie came from Scotland in 1883 and came to Sanborn in 1884 and opened the tailor shop. Mr. Charles Anderson came from Sweden in 1892, where he learned the tailor trade and became Mr. Pirie’s partner. They retired in June 1936. Mr. Mulder purchased the building June 4, 1936 and continues his business there today. Just south of this building was a long low building, housing the Todd and Powers Implement shop. The Todd family (parents of Mrs. D.C. Killam) came to Sanborn in 1887 and Mr. Todd engaged in this business with Mr. Powers, who was already settled here.
The Barnes Hotel or Sanborn House was located on First street, where the Mrs. Sam Omer home now stands. It was moved here from Primghar in 1879 and was on the grounds to meet the first railroad workers. Later it was known as the Western House and was operated by Dan Gorrell and again by the Fenton family. The last proprietors were Mr. and Mrs. Pro, who closed the hotel in the early 1900's
The Beacom House or Commercial House opened February 17, 1882 and was on the corner where the Masonic Temple now stands. Mr. and Mrs. John Beacom operated this hotel. They had a family of ten children. Their son, Thomas Beacon started his career in railroading on the Milwaukee division in 1882 and became very successful in his work. This building cost $3,000 and was large and commodious, being able to take care of 100 guests. It was destroyed by the tornado, June 5, 1914. Crandall Hardware occupied the first floor and the J.D. Long family had living quarters and a photograph studio at that time.
The White House was on the east side of Main street, where Geo. C. Getting’s two-story brick building, housing a show room and garage on the first floor and an apartment house on the second floor, stands today. Once it was known as the Empire House and was operated by the Fenton family. Later Mrs. Tom Maloney operated it as the White House, while her husband operated a bakery. It was also operated by Mr. and Mrs. Boynton. They were the parents of Mrs. Arthur Lucas, a school teacher whose husband had a jewelry store here in early days. Another daughter taught in the Public school. Mrs. Lucas now lives at Arnolds Park. Then the Groves family owned it and it was known as the Groves Hotel and Restaurant. Then it was leased by Sam Omer and was called the Omer Annex. They used the upper floor in conjunction with the Omer Hotel and rented out the lower floor for living quarters in the back and business in the front part.
Roden’s Hotel was built in 1881 by A.H. Roden and Theo. Linden. The building was 32 ft. by 70 ft. by 22 ft. It cost $6,000. The second floor was called Roden’s Hall. It could seat between 400 and 500 people. There was an outside entrance to the hall on the south side of the building. A grand ball was given at the opening in November, 1881. Many shows, dances and fairs were held there. One of the early shows was Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Little Eva, Uncle Tom and the baying bloodhounds were a main attraction. Later this was called the Hotel Strayer and was operated by Mr. Strayer. It was also operated by Mr. and Mrs. Nick Palma. One time it was called the Oxford Hotel. Mr. and Mrs. Palma sold the building to the Omers. It became the Omer Hotel in 1908 and remained as such until 1949, when Sam Omer, owner, had it torn down to make way for Omer’s Café. This is a brick building 48 ft. by 40 ft. It is operated now by Mrs. Sam Omer and daughters.
The Clark House, later the Phoenix Hotel, was started in March, 1882. As the population of the growing town increased and more trains stopped here the need of a larger hotel became urgent. It was built where the O’Brien County Co-op. Creamery stands now. The Mart Shea Lumber office was located there and had to be moved to make room for the new building. It was built of veneered brick, three stories high, with a basement. It had fifty rooms and was located near the depot so passenger trains could stop for meals. One hundred people could be seated in the dining room, and four passenger trains stopped here daily for meals. It had bath rooms, laundry and barber shop. The grand opening was held July 4, 1882. Mr. S.R. Kelly was the owner and W.A. Kaynor was the first proprietor. First it was called the G.W. Sanborn House but in July 1882 it was definitely named the Clark House after General Superintendent Clark of the C.M. & St. P. Railway.
The Kaynors were famous for their meals. Many banquets were held there. The second Old Timers Reunion (O’Brien County) was held there Dec. 5, 1884. The Algona Orchestra furnished the music, playing “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Il Trovature,” “ A Mississippi Yell,”Auld Lang Sayne,” “Kiss to Beecher,” Arkansas Traveler,” Dixie Land,” and “Home Sweet Home.” The banquet was $5 per plate. The menu was: Shrewsbury oysters on half shell, Russian caviar, Chateau d’yquem, en verres vertes, clam chowder, baked blue fish, Vichy water, filtration of 1884, terrain l’Americanine, Parisian potatoes, eau de cologne, fresh from the Rhine, tenderloin of beef, mushrooms, Petits Pois, Al carchafa Italiana, asparagus, lettuce, cyclone pickles, celery, Spanish olives, Mumm’s Appolinaris water, extra dry: saddle of venison, broiled pheasants, pigs in blankets, currant jelly, Orange marmalade, cucumber salad, Greno’s champagne cider, St. John’s favorite, Pomery, English Plum Pudding, blanc mange, cream meringues, vanilla ice cream, raspberry water ice, bourbon health restorer, pears, bananas, figs, raisins, russet oranges, hot-house cherries, California grapes, Malaga grapes, peaches, apricots, almonds, Blue Joint 1776, Neuchetel cheese, Fowage de Bris, hard tack, café noir, Havana cigars.
The Clark House prospered under the Kaynor management. Gross receipts in 1885 were $25,000. Meals averaged 250 daily. Mr. Kaynor also owned a livery stable located near the hotel. He had twenty horses and several carriages, buggies and phaetons. When the Kaynors left, the hotel did not prosper as well under new management and later a fire burned our the interior. The owner did not rebuild it, so it stood vacant and idle. Windows were broken and other parts destroyed or stolen.
Legal complications arose over the Clark House and it was not reopened until 1902. It was then named the Phoenix (risen from ashes) Hotel. This time E.C. Tangney proposed to the Milwaukee Railroad Co. that he would redecorate and repair the building and agree to operate a good hotel if at the end of ten years the building would be his. The proposition was accepted and the hotel was put in first class condition. Water was piped to each floor. New lights were installed and many other improvements were made.
Mr. Tangney had been a fireman on the Milwaukee railroad and found upon examination for a promotion that he would have to discontinue railroading. Thus the chain of Tangney hotels in the Tangney family was started. The Phoenix opened Feb. 20, 1902. Mr. Tangney hired G.D. Carpenter as the first manager. He was an experienced hotel man from Denver. Shortly Mr. and Mrs. Tangney devoted all of their time to the business and with their family operated the Phoenix for several years. Then Mr. Tangney bought the Arlington Hotel at Sheldon and moved there.
Mr. Leitch followed the Tangneys as manager. He sold the hotel to Mr. Tapp of Albia, and old time railroad man, in October 1914. The retiring landlord went into moving picture business.
Mr. Spears was the landlord when the Phoenix Hotel burned July 24, 1922. Fire was discovered at 2:15 a.m. and had made great headway. There were 35 guests in the hotel at the time and all escaped safely. Lack of water hindered the work of the firemen. A strong wind from the southeast endangered the Omer Hotel across the street to the north. The Sheldon firemen came to help but the walls had started to cave in when they arrived so they were too late to save the building. It was thought the fire started from an oil or gas stove in the kitchen, which had been improperly extinguished. The Phoenix and all its furnishings burned and was never rebuilt. Mr. Spears suffered a great loss.
The people of Sanborn enjoyed the hospitality of this hotel, and many memorable event took place there. William Jennings Bryan, the silver tongued orator and oft time candidate for president on the Democratic ticket spoke from a platform erected at the south steps of the hotel, October 18, 1906 to a large gathering of people, including the children of the Sanborn Public School.
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