Travelers through Brainerd looking for a safe place to get some shut-eye or perhaps a hearty meal needed to look no further than the Ransford Hotel.
The Ransford Hotel on South Sixth Street was built in 1904 for about $100,000 and constructed by Ransford R. Wise, who was also part of the group behind the construction of the Iron Exchange building downtown.
“The location for a hotel is an ideal one and the erection of a substantial building would be a great addition to the city,” according to the April 28, 1904, edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch, chronicled by the Crow Wing County Historical Society.
The hotel extended from west of the southwest corner of Front and Sixth streets to about midway of Front Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. Constructed from red bricks near the start of the 20th century, it was condemned in 1972 and finally demolished three years later.
“It is said that the plans are for a hotel something on the plan of the Waldorf at Fargo, a three-story brick block, modern and in every respect up-to-date,” the same Dispatch story stated.
Wise leased the Ransford Hotel to Thomas Beare of Minneapolis, selecting him among 32 applicants for the lease of the hotel.
“Mr. Beare is a gentleman of ability, having had wide business experience and one of the best features in his favor is the fact that he is reputed wealthy. He comes to Brainerd with capital to invest and will at the outstart expend from $12,000 to $15,000 for furniture and fixtures for the new hotel,” according to the Feb. 10, 1905, edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch.
Tragedy struck a couple of years later when a lighted lamp was accidentally knocked over by a worker who was scrubbing the floor and fire losses amounted to about $33,000.
“Mr. Beare will put in a dock at his gardens southwest of the brewery and also at the Laurel Street bridge, and will use the boat in part for bringing the produce to the (Ransford) hotel, as well as for pleasure,” according to the June 15, 1909, edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch.
The Ransford Hotel survived at least three fires that swept buildings on nearby lots. Not after the hotel was built, fire destroyed most of the buildings west of the building, but the hotel was not damaged.
For example, a fire started in the Stallman Brothers’ Barbershop and poolroom in the basement of the Ransford Hotel on Oct. 28, 1917, which caused about $4,500 in damages. And a 1909 fire destroyed many buildings on the future site of the Iron Exchange building but not the hotel.
While fires plagued the building and surrounding area, it seemed more pedestrian annoyances kept the attention of hotel staff, according to the Dispatch archives.
“I wish some of those people, who make it a practice to congregate on the sidewalk by the hotel, would cease in their habit of spitting on the walk. I have to use hose and broom to remove the tobacco juice,” Charles Rattinger, a hotel manager, reportedly said on Oct. 24, 1910.
J. Herschel Hardy of Chicago, Ill., purchased the hotel, stores and annex from the Gould-Gray Co. in 1928. He owned six other hotels in five different states at the time. The largest hotel owned by the Gould-Gray Co. was the Waldorf at Fargo, a 150-room hotel that was also built by Wise.
“I wish some of those people, who make it a practice to congregate on the sidewalk by the hotel, would cease in their habit of spitting on the walk. I have to use hose and broom to remove the tobacco juice.”
— Charles Rattinger, a Ransford Hotel manager (Oct. 24, 1910)
Another fire began in an unused stairway in the Ransford Hotel pool hall on Oct. 21, 1929, and swept through the ceiling to what was known as the Ransford Annex and through the walls and ceiling into the Journal Press print shop, causing estimated damages upwards of $20,000.
The Ransford Hotel was condemned by the city in 1972 and boarded up since that time, and was finally demolished in 1975 at a cost to the city of about $43,000.
Brainerd has had about 25 hotels in its 150-year existence but most of them have long since burned down. Across South Sixth Street on the corner, a bench seat exists today comprised of some of the sandstone windowsills of the Ransford Hotel.