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Minonk's Dasher Hotel

Submitted by Jari Lynn Oncken - April 12, 2016

On Wednesday April 1st, 2015, at 8:30 in the morning another old historical building, the former Dasher Hotel/ Masonic Temple was torn down. I would not have known this had not Edith Arndt called me the day before. The next morning, I went to this site on the northwest corner of E. 6th and Walnut streets with camera in hand. I began taking pictures, first at the front of the building, then going counter clockwise around the building. It is interesting to know that on the north side was a rusted metal stairway going up to the top floor. After the school bus left the grade school that day, John Rupert of JBR Earthscapes, Inc. began demolishing the building beginning at the southwest corner. Many citizens were there watching and taking pictures. The last part to be taken down was the front entrance. After all the bricks had fallen, there was one white concrete piece that lay untouched. When it was turned over, on the face were the letters AF-AM, a Masonic name that according to mason Jim Meyer meant "Ancient Free and Accepted Masons."

The Dasher Hotel, built in 1890, was a popular hotel. It mainly housed people traveling by rail on passenger trains that ran on the Illinois Central and Santa Fe through Minonk. The hotel's opening day was held on January 14, 1891. It must have been quite an elegant event! In the program were listed the people who served on the reception, invitation, and finance committees. The menu consisted of oysters on half shell, queen olives, celery, Potage a la Reine, and fresh lobster in shell. Following were the meat dishes including boiled beef tongue and sugar cured ham, roasted filet of beef with mushrooms, young turkey stuffed, and domestic duck. The vegetables were mashed potatoes, French peas, and sweet potatoes, browned. Topping off the meal were the dessert offerings. It makes ones mouth water to think of plum pudding with brandy sauce, mince pie, apple pie, vanilla ice cream, fruit cake, assorted cakes, and mixed nuts. Tea and coffee were also served.

Entertainment included an orchestra overture, a piano solo, three vocal duets, two vocal quartets, three violin solos, and a violin quartet.

During the late 1800s there were four hotels and a couple of boarding houses in Minonk. Beside the Dasher Hotel, there was the City Hotel located on the southeast corner of Oak and E 5th Streets. Another popular hotel, The Woodford, built in 1887, stood in the 500 block of Oak Street. The fourth hotel, the Arlington Hotel, was located on the southwest corner of Walnut and W 5th Streets. All of these hotels and boarding houses would be filled to capacity during the four day long street fairs. Thousands of people, most coming by train, would enjoy all the good food and entertainment.

The Dasher Hotel was in business until 1919 when Minonk's Rob Morris Masonic Lodge, organized on October 7, 1857, bought this grand building. The front porch was taken off and other changes were made to accommodate the lodge and Eastern Star. Also many programs, meetings, and reunions were held there throughout the years.

Since 1979 the former Dasher Hotel building was the thirteenth historical building to be torn down in Minonk. The first four buildings, demolished in 1979, were located in the north business block. We remember these buildings housing, from south to north, Poynter's Appliances, Princess Sweet Shop, the A & P grocery, and the Variety Store. They were torn down to make way for our former IGA grocery, now our new Grosenbach Grocery.

Then on November 16, 2011, we lost eight old brick buildings to fire-four sat just south of Grosenbach Grocery in the 500 block of Chestnut and the other four buildings were located around the corner to the west on W. 5th Street. We are fortunate to have pictures of these buildings along with the history that goes with them.

We miss these old historical buildings which were part of Minonk's past. Now we enjoy our new businesses, Grosenbach Grocery and Williams Popcorn Shop. Added to these two are the Country Florist, Pop's Sweet Shop, the Dollar General, and the Minonk Chocolate Company, formerly Cunninghams's Candy, which relocated to the 500 block between Chestnut and Oak Streets. How nice it is to have more shopping opportunities. Exciting things are happening in Minonk!

Below are photos of the last day of the hotel.