The Travelers Hotel and the First International Bank of Noonan in 1910

Friday, December 31, 2010

History of the Travelers Hotel

(Adapted from the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, written by Karen Verlinde. The Traveler's Hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in July 2010.)

The first homesteaders in Divide County didn't arrive until spring of 1903, but by the following winter, the eastern two-thirds of the county was full of claim shacks. The first lots on the plat of the City of Noonan were sold in 1906, and the city was incorporated in 1907. Coal mining was the lifeblood of the community, along with agriculture, and the railroad. The Travelers Hotel opened in 1910 as a hotel/restaurant and it remained in that capacity for most of  its history. It was an integral part of the early history of the city of Noonan. Immigrants coming from places such as Norway and Belgium, and also a great many people migrating from Minnesota to North Dakota, stayed at the hotel as they came to homestead, start businesses, visit relatives already here, or just attend of of the many celebrations held in Noonan. The Hotel housed the first local dentist and doctor, as well as many other city founders, coal mining officials and workers, railroad workers and business owners. The early registry books from the Hotel, which we have in our possession, date from 1910 to 1929, and are filled with the signatures of the prominent businessmen of the day, relatives of the people of the Noonan area, and guests arriving for special occasions.

The Hotel's grand opening on February 7, 1910 was a spectacular event which included a reception, a ball, and a sumptuous banquet of eight courses "which no reader in his right mind would have missed if he were physcially and financially able to attend" wrote June Thompson in the Noonan Diamond Jubilee History Book. She went on to say that "A train came in from the east bringing distinguished guests from Minot and Bismarck, as well as assorted passengers from Flaxton, Larson, Lignite and Columbus. The train went on to Crosby, turned around and then made a special trip back to Noonan where it disgorged a horde of merry makers from the western cities. One hundred and fifty persons attended at a charge of $5 per person." The grand opening was a "grand and successful affair" according to the Noonan Republican, the local newspaper of that era. Such was the auspicious beginning of the social history of this historic building.

The 14 guest rooms at the Travelers Hotel were equipped with telephones and electricity, along with state-of the-art steam heat, making it the most of up-do-date hotel in the area at that time.  The cost to build the hotel was $15,000 in 1909.

Many colorful citizens have stayed at the Travelers Hotel in its past, including nineteen-year-old aviator Cromwell Dixon from New York, who signed the registry of the Travelers Hotel on September 18, 1911 while in town for the annual Harvest Festival. The Noonan Diamond Jubilee history book stated that his ship was the first aeroplane flight made from North Dakota soil. Further research has revealed that there were earlier flights made in the eastern part of the state, but what I believe the writer was trying to say, is that since Dixon's airplane arrived in Noonan on the train and was assembled there before flying, it was the first airplane to fly in North Dakota that didn't fly in from another state. Cromwell was later given the distinction of being the first avaiator to cross the Continental Divide, but unfortunately his fame was short lived as he died two days later performing at the Interstate Fair in Spokane, WA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cromwell_Dixon

Annie Oakley, the famous female American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter who starred in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, may very well have signed the Hotel's registry on April 27, 1911 as "A. Oakley." Her signature has not been validated by handwriting experts, but she was still performing in 1911. Noonan newspapers from that time period are missing so no related information concerning her stay at the Hotel could be found.

Jim Hill's signature is found frequently in the registry of the Travelers Hotel as he took care of railroad business in the area. Hill was highly instrumental in the development of our country through  his railroad empire. His involvement in many parts of business made James J. Hill deserving of his title "The Empire Builder," a legend of success that remains today. The states of Minnesota and the Dakotas became popular states for immigration because of Hill. In 1915 at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Fransico, Hill was named the State of Minnesota's "greatest living citizen" for his important role in railroad history. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Jerome_Hill

During prohibition, Noonan’s 7-mile proximity to Canada made the area a popular spot for bootleggers transporting liquor across the border on Highway 40 north of of Noonan and beer shacks sprang up in many places along the Canadian border. The Travelers Hotel was a convenient place for bootleggers and thirsty U.S. residents to spend the night as they traveled back and forth across the border. When the prohibition ended in 1933, the Travelers Hotel was the first establishment in Noonan to serve legal liquor again. Though many of the older women in Noonan frowned upon this, Mr. Amundstad, who was the owner of the hotel at that time, was quick to install kegs of beer, which he frequently sipped on throughout the day.
Anyone of any importance coming to Noonan most likely spent a night or two at the Travelers Hotel. Annual celebrations such as the Harvest Festival and Old Settlers Day brought many visitors to town. Mostly though, the pages of the registry books are filled with the signatures of people who lived and worked in the Noonan area or people who came to visit relatives there. Page after page reveals signatures of the grandparents, great-grandparents, great aunts and uncles, etc. of the people currently living in the Noonan area. As people came to this area, they often needed a place to stay until making a permanent home of their own. Homesteaders just starting out in agriculture could always get a job mining or hauling and shoveling coal to supplement their meager income, making Noonan an attractive place to settle.

The hotel’s lobby and restaurant were also used as meeting places for various organizations, parties and social events throughout the years. Bridal showers, card parties, and even weddings have been held there. Because the first doctor and dentist in Noonan worked out of rooms in the hotel, most every citizen was familiar with the hotel. The dentist rented two rooms, one to stay in and one to work out of. Even the folks who had homes out in the country occasionally found it necessary to spend a night or two at the hotel when a wintery blizzard prevented them from travelling home.  And because the hotel lobby was the only place in Noonan to have a public phone booth, people frequently stopped by to use it. Even into the 1970s, kids who lived out of town would go to the hotel after school events to call their parents and then wait in the lobby to be picked up. It was also one of the few places in Noonan to have a public restroom, and so many locals stopped there often to use the facilities. Beginning in 1929, the hotel was also the pickup and dropoff point for the bus that traveled to Minot and back daily.

The Travelers Hotel was a popular place in its day, and a central hub in the development of the city of Noonan. It served as a hotel and restaurant from the time it opened until the late 1970s. It was owned by J.J. Gitts from 1916 until 1929, when it was sold to Amund Amundstad. Amundstad owned and operated the building for 37 years before selling it to Kenneth and Priscilla Fagerland in 1966. In the late 70s, the main floor was used for a short time as a grocery store, before being converted  into a bar. The first bar, created by Donna and Robert Lagein, was called the Travel Inn and was run by Howard and Betty Melby. The Lageins sold the business to Sonny Kostek, who owned it until 1987. Carla (Tanberg) Miller then opened The Other Place Saloon, a highly successful bar which brought many Canadians across the border every weekend. Since its closure in 2002, which was largely due to its deteriorating condition, it has remained vacant. The new owners, David and Karen Verlinde, who purchased the building in 2009, have repaired the roof and are hoping to restore the building into a hotel/restaurant again and retain its social significance in the small town of Noonan and its farming community.

3 comments:

  1. I am so glad you have started this blog and look forward to the updates and watching the progress of the restoration. It will be a beautiful place once again! I admire you, David and Karen, for taking on this massive project, and am hopeful the necessary funding and will come in and the help needed to finish the project. Sure wish we were closer so we could be of more help!

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  2. At the Buffalo Bill Museum web page (http://www.buffalobill.org)there is a photo of Annie Oakley with her signature, in case you want to compare. Also her real last name was Moses and there were Moses folks out in that area. Wouldn't it be interesting if she were stopping to visit them?
    Thank you,
    Sally

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  3. IT SEEMS LIKE A ZILLION YEARS AGO, IN THE MIDDLE 1940'S I WORKED AT THE KITCHEN WASHING DISHES. MY MOTHER WAS COOKING THERE.
    THAT WAS LONG BEFORE MODERN STOVES AND IT WAS SO VERY HOT BACK THERE IN THE SUMMER. SO GLAD THAT IT IS BEING RESTORED.

    PAT HANDRAHAN

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