The grand Hotel Hibbing

In early November, 1921, the grand Hotel Hibbing was on the move. Here it is seen up on wheels and heading towards the "new Hibbing". Built by Frank Hibbing and opened in February, 1896, this hotel was considered the most elegant hotel north of Duluth. It survived a fire in 1915. It probably never guessed it would one day be raised up and towed two miles south to a new site!

Hibbing hotels were hanging out the “Welcome” signs from the earliest days of the community. A rapidly growing town needed people and people needed lodging. Thus, boarding houses and hotels were very necessary. People settling in for some period of time, especially single men, would gravitate to the boarding houses. People here for a shorter time, such as to check out the investment possibilities in the area, finalize a purchase of land, or investigate the employment available, would head for a hotel.

Hibbing’s founder, Frank Hibbing, was very invested in the town named after him - invested financially and emotionally. Wanting to see the town prosper, he and A.J. Trimble established the first bank. Frank Hibbing also financed the town’s first water plant, electric light system, early roads, and among the earliest hotels, the Hotel Hibbing.

In the Hibbing Daily Tribune on September 14, 1933, Albert Bickford wrote an article about his own early days in Hibbing. By the time he wrote this article he was serving as Clerk for the City of Virginia. Here is part of his article:

It was my pleasure to have had a personal acquaintance with the pioneer Frank Hibbing during my residence in the “old Hibbing,” now referred to as “North Hibbing.” He was in his zenith of success and career when the Hotel Hibbing was dedicated and opened on February 22, 1896. This occasion was the outstanding social event of the Mesaba Range and marked with a grand ball. Special trains were run and the opening marked the beginning of the great and unhalted progress of the Ore Capitol.

Another article from a Tribune writer in 1933 remembered the opening of the Hotel Hibbing in 1896 this way:

A merry crowd gathered for a night of Scotch and schottische, and a large banquet was held. Delegations came via special Duluth, Missabe and Northern train from Duluth, others drove the tortuous passage through tall pines from Grand Rapids and the western end of the Mesaba Range, and more came in sleighs and by other means from Virginia. All came to enjoy the Range’s newest hotel- and even the sky-high $5.00 per plate did not phase Hibbing’s younger set as they dug deeply into their pockets for that night of revelry.

At the time of Frank Hibbing’s death a year later in 1897 at age 40 due to appendicitis, he still owned the hotel. The Hibbing newspaper reported that the Hotel Hibbing, which it stated was among the most exclusive on the Range, cost about $15,000 to build.

Hotel Hibbing was located on the corner of Cedar Street and Third Avenue, in the heart of downtown North Hibbing. In 1915 a fire broke out in the hotel. The hardworking firemen of the day got the fire contained before the flames could spread to neighboring buildings, most of which, like the hotel, were built of wood. The damaged areas of the hotel were rebuilt and it continued to host visitors and many events.

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An article in the Hibbing Daily Tribune August 6, 1919, shows that Hibbing took care of its hotel patrons. The article is headlined “Fire Ropes In All Hotels.” The article reads:

The Village of Hibbing is taking no chances with fire risks resulting in loss of property and lives, and Joseph Rens, fire warden, has issued an order that all three-story buildings, hotels and residences, which are not provided with fire ropes must do so immediately. Ren today completed a weekly inspection of buildings and ordered old ropes used for escaping from burning buildings replaced with new ones.

The inspection is not only confined to Hibbing, but goes for Brooklyn and Alice as well. Every two or three storied buildings in the city is provided with fire escapes, and one hotel which has not yet provided enough escapes has been given a final warning.

In a small glass case in the chief’s office is a plan or drawing of every basement in the business section. There are plans of the different floors, blind alleys, fire escapes, windows and doors. These are kept on record and every fireman is acquainted with them. It means the saving of lives.

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So what were some of the other hotels in Hibbing? The following is an article which appeared in the Hibbing Daily Tribune on June 29, 1946. This article tells a bit about the hotels found in Hibbing in the early years.

A tourist pamphlet, if there had been such a thing, from Hibbing in the year of its birth, 1893, would have given the impression of a resort center with three hotels in the town of slightly less than 400 people.

The Cosmopolitan, the Browne, and the Coffinger were the names of the three established hotels at that time and the Hotel Superior was under construction in 1893-94. A restaurant owned by James Dillon was another place with accommodation offered to travelers.

Mr. Dorsey and Mr. McKinary were the owners of the Cosmopolitan. McKinary often faced financial difficulty with his partner since Dorsey was so kind-hearted that he couldn’t bear to see anyone go hungry and served gratis meals to lean-looking lumbermen. The dining room of the Cosmopolitan was about 24X40 feet, with three tables extending the full length of the room. Dorsey would throw open the door and announce “Take it!” in a deep voice. In less than an hour everything edible had vanished from sight!

It was a common occurrence to see a notice hanging over the Cosmopolitan’s dining room on Friday or Saturday printed in large letters that read, “No more stiffs wanted- this place is closed!”

The hotel had a barroom and Dorsey would take in enough money over the bar in a few days to restock the kitchen. Then, when he heard that strangers were coming to visit, he would promptly declare the whole hotel open for business again.

Another early hotel was the Northern built in North Hibbing in 1896 by Emil Anderson. This hotel operated until 1909 when Anderson closed it. The building was moved to 5th Avenue in South Hibbing in 1921 where it was remodeled and re-opened as a hotel. (In the 1950s, this building was remodeled and became what it still is today, the Hibbing Bowling Center.)

The Oliver Hotel followed the Miles Hotel as a leading hostelry in Hibbing. Charles Miles of Bemidji began the erection of the Miles Hotel in 1897. He also established a theater and after departing from Hibbing became an important figure in the theatrical business of Detroit, Michigan.

When the Miles Hotel was destroyed by fire, Peter McHardy and Edward Kleffman built what became the Oliver Hotel. The Oliver had many managers through the years including Fred Whyment, a former railroad conductor; Frank Ansley, one of the town’s early mayors; and M.J. Moran, former agent for the Great Northern Railroad company.

“Superior” was the first name selected for the town which would become Hibbing. Frank Hibbing preferred the town retain the name Superior, but others intervened and the town was named for its founder. There would, however, be a hotel called the Superior Hotel located on Third Avenue in North Hibbing which proudly carried on the town’s original name.

In 1920 Hibbing’s move to the south was underway. Roy Quigley owned the Hotel Hibbing at that time and had it moved to South Hibbing. (The Hotel Hibbing was settled into the lot, 1921 6th Avenue East, behind the present-day Boomtown. In the 1950s it was called the “Androy Annex”. It has since been torn down.) However, he and his business partner Andrew Doran believed that a new up-to-date hotel was needed in the new Hibbing and so plans were laid for a $650,000 hotel which was to be one of the finest in the Northwest. The Oliver Mining Company financed the hotel. The mining company wanted the hotel as a showplace for impressing business people. It wanted to entice people from out of the area into investing in the new town, including along the new main street, Howard Street.

In June, 1921, the Androy Hotel was completed. The hotel had 160 rooms (100 of those with baths with hot and cold running water), a large dining room, three private dining rooms, a coffee shop, a large veranda, and a cocktail lounge.

The name came from the combination of the two men’s names, Andrew and Roy. It was originally going to be called the Oliver Hotel. This first-class hotel was opened with much fanfare and for the next 50 years it was the most elegant of places to stay and host events.

Thanks to the relentless efforts of a number of Hibbingites in the 1980s, the Androy was saved from the wrecking ball. It is now home to many senior citizen apartments upstairs, while its main floor houses the Elks’ Lodge and is the site of wedding receptions, private gatherings, dinners for many organizations, and craft shows. It is the last of Hibbing’s “original” hotels.

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