After receiving a historical document, Heritage Group North in Pine River was inspired to celebrate a centennial and partial re-enactment of the opening of one of the city's once famous buildings - the Spurrier Hotel.

From 1918 to 1964, the Spurrier was the largest building in town with three stories, a social club and other attractions. The hotel was a social center for the town until its demolition in 1964 to make way for a planned Highway 371 four-lane expansion.

Sweet Cars is now where the hotel once was, since plans for the highway later determined expansion should take place on the other side of the road, proving that demolition of the historic landmark was premature and ill-conceived.

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Spurrier Hotel celebration

  • When: 5 p.m. Thursday, July 26
  • Where: Bites Grill & Bar, Pine River
  • Cost: $30

The event will be a fundraiser for the Heritage Group North general fund. All guests will be given a reproduction program designed after the original program.

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The decision to celebrate the hotel in spite of its 54-year absence came when Heritage Group North board member Agnes Farnam was gifted an original program from the April 27, 1918, grand opening detailing the speakers, entertainment and menu for the event. The original program came from the private collection of James Gearey Sr. and Irene Gearey.

"Once we got that and saw it was almost exactly 100 years ago, we kind of took off with the idea," said board member Annette Houg. "It spawned and took on a life of its own."

Houg and HGN secretary and board member Pat Johnson dug in to research the hotel, the Spurrier family and the people named in the program not only to celebrate the event, but to re-create some of its features. They started by finding a dining place, contacting Roger Hoplin of Bites Grill & Bar, only to find a serendipitous coincidence.

"Roger's birthday was 40 years to the day after they opened it," Johnson said. "He was born April 27, 1958, and his grandmother was Alice Hoplin. She was one of the cooks. We understand everyone went there for her doughnuts and things and then Roger's mother, Cleone, received a wedding gift from Lake Region Hotel, so that will be on display."

As a result, Hoplin was asked to be toastmaster of the event, replacing the original toastmaster, W.A. Spurrier.

There are many other equivalent replacements, such as:

  • Guitarist Jerry Erickson of Bigfoot Musical Theater will stand in for the Pine River Orchestra, which no longer exists.
  • Methodist Pastor Loren Grage will stand in for Methodist Pastor A.J. Abbott in giving the invocation.
  • Attorney Kevin Hughes of St. Cloud, nephew of the last owners of the hotel, will replace Walker attorney Dan Delury in giving the speech "Recollections and Progress of Pine River."
  • There will be no direct replacement for Charles Weber, founder of the Pine River Chamber of Commerce, who gave a speech on "Pine River Booster and Boasting."
  • Jay Cline, of First National Bank North and current Pine River Chamber of Commerce president, will replace W.H. Gimal to give the speech on "Best Village on the M&I."
  • The Loyalty League Quartet is being reformed with new members, courtesy of Naomi Horn, choir director at Pine River-Backus School.
  • Chuck Nelson, of Pine River State Bank, will replace E. E. Martin, village banker.
  • Cass County Commissioner and Centennial Farm honoree Bob Kangas will replace H.I. Davey, head of the Spurrier Land Development Company, in speaking of Cass County from an agricultural standpoint. Johnson said it is possible Kangas's farm was part of the Spurrier Land Development.

Just like in 1918, Hoplin will guide the entire group in singing "The Star-Spangled Banner," which was not yet the national anthem at the time of the Spurrier's opening.

The menu from the grand opening will also be re-created, including: consomme clear with croutons; crisp celery, dill pickles and queen olives as a relish; roast Minnesota turkey with rice dressing and cranberry jelly; mashed potatoes and fruit salad; head lettuce with french dressing; ice cream; angel food cake; conservation raised biscuits; and coffee.

"Roger and Wendy have been helping us on the greatest details down to how the relish tray will be presented," Houg said. "It will be all China. There will be no paper on the table. There will be linens and China and things like that. And the tables were all for four. Ours will all be for four."

Because there were no female speakers or entertainment at the original event, the re-creation will follow suit with all men as entertainment and speakers. Displays of artifacts from the Spurrier will also be present, along with a slide show and presentation on the Spurrier to include such facts as the death of W.A. Spurrier Jr. by dynamite. Some speakers will re-create 1918 attire.

"The community response has been awesome. Anybody that was around in the '40s or '50s remembers being in the hotel," Houg said. "Everyone has stories to tell. They are loving the chance to swap stories."