"Prindle's Little Inn"
-It was going to be "bigger than those in Chicago."
(Miles Durand Prindle wrote this in a letter to his mother.)
"The Beginning of the Inn"
When Mr. Prindle came to this town in the 1850's; he was not the first white man, but what historians call the 'first mover.' He initiated the necessities of the town. He and Charles Weatherbee built the first store. Mr. Grippen owned a hotel above the store. Unfortunately the store burned down the next year in the town-wide fire (Fire of 1881) and all three went their separate ways. Grippen built the Casler House, another hotel, and Mr. and Mrs. Prindle open the Tontine House.
The Tontine House was established before the fire; being a residence of the couple. The Prindles stayed there for a while during the time it became a hotel. Also several additions were made until 1888, when it was completed. It soon became known an Prindle's Little Inn by many of those who came to 'the center of local society.'
"The First Appearance"
The Prindle Inn did achieve Miles Prindle's goal of being bigger than those in Chicago. The 'conglomerated Swiss structure' had thirteen gables and thirteen chimneys when it was finished. There was a stream in back that supplied the artesian well which served three blocks. It was common to see Indians with their canoes docked in back. The Prindle Inn also contained three stories.
When guests would come in they would be recieved in the lobby. It became the main room and probably the most memorable to the community. This was where news of the day was exchanged and most of the town gossip was started. In this room Milwaukee Railroad signed for rights to build a railroad between Read's Landing and Eau Claire. For the use of the room, Mr. and Mrs. Prindle received lifetime passes to ride the trains. Also John F. Kennedy met supporters here before the Wisconsin Primary in 1960.
The west side of the lobby had a large bay window facing the courthouse across the street. Intriguingly, looking out this window, Mary Plummer witnessed the hanging of the Willams Brothers, the last hanging in Wisconsin, in 1881. Mary later married the French Premier during World War One and became Mrs. Clemenceau.
A handcarved wooden fireplace was in the south side of the lobby. Above was an attractive clock that had to be rewound every eight days. Also there was a winding staircase to the second and third floor.
On the north side there was a doorway that led to three large rooms. Here agents and peddlers displayed their merchandise. Many of them came by boat; and then later by train. A four-wheel cart carried their trunks.
In the rear was a thirty-eight by eight kitchen. There was an opening where food was served. Off to the side of this room was a storage room for wood.
In front of the kitchen was the dining room of the same size. The floor had maple and oak baseboards going in all directions, making a total of forty-six different designs. The walls were made of wooden paneling and steel with stamped designs on the ceilng. There were two large iron hooks, which held lanterns or possibly special lamps.
On the next level were fourteen guest rooms and a bathroom. The rooms were very small compared to room today. Billy Nye, a humorist, stayed there before he took the exam for admission to the bar. When he flunked the test, needing revenge he 'payed a left-handed compliment' to the Inn. George Washington did not stay there, but all the governors of Wisconsin stayed at the Prindle Inn, except Thompson, Nelson, and Reynolds. That is, all the governor's before the 1970's.
The third floor was dominated by two towers. It did have room for an 'observation room.' This is where the arrival of boats and stagecoaches were announced. They may have been Prindle's own stagecoaches that stopped there for a break from the twenty hour ride between Sparta and La Crosse. Also, possibly the 'Idell Prindle', his steamboat that was named after his only child, who died when she was five. After the two massive fires went through town, people became very aware and it was used as a "look-out post."
Lastly, there were two partial basements. One was a small fruit and vegetable cellar under the kitchen. The other stored the Inn's heating system.
"Varied Ownership and Management"
Since the Prindle Inn existed for a century, it is fascinating that ownership changed only four times. It must have been very valuable to its owners. There are also more managers that managed the inn for the owners.
After Mr. Prindle died in 1903, Ada Prindle kept the Inn by renting it to people. H. R. Smith did that while she mortgaged it. There is no research on why Mrs. Prindle did that.
Next it fell to Morris Powers. For a time it was managed by two Polzer girls, whose names are disputed. Mr. Powers than sold it to Dan Swiheart. Who sold it to Ed S. Pattison, a Durand attorney, in 1921, one year before Mrs. Prindle died from an oil stove accident.
Then Tom R. Jordan joined his uncle Ed in business in 1933. When Mr. Pattison died in 1955, Mr. Jordan and his wife Fern became sole owners. They called the hotel the Jordan Inn, but they were the only ones. To everyone else it was the Prindle Inn.
"The Lasting Impressions"
By 1960 the Prindle Inn had undergone many changes outside, in the lobby, kitchen, dining room, second and third floors, and the basement. It was good in the way since it brought more business, but bad in another way, which will be explained later.
The outside had extensive alterations done. Mr. Jordan removed twelve of the chimneys. He also added an annex to the west side in 1953. The addition contained the law offices of Laue and Goethal. It also had a beauty parlor at one time, that kept the Inn still the center of the town's news. Also the stream in back was now mainly underground.
The lobby was redone to accommodate the Jordans. Part of it was partitioned off for Mr. Jordan's office. He was in the insurance business and feed, fuel, lumber, and seed sales. The clock was still ticking, but the fireplace was boarded up with the new heating system. The lobby then contained a large wooden wardrobe and an antique crank telephone.
The kitchen and dining room was transformed into living quarters for the Jordan family. It had a smaller kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Similarly the three large rooms off the corridor from the lobby were turned into apartments. One of which Mr. and Mrs. Clinton Herried stayed in while they assisted the Jordans.
The second level became carpeted and had plumbing. This gave all the rooms hot and cold water and replaced the bowl and pitchers at the foot of the beds. The 'observation room' became of no use business-wise. Tom Jordan left the sign 'Durand's Fortieth Anniversary' on the wall. The towers became overtaken by doves and pigeons.
There was a full basement dug out. Mr. Jordan remembers when his uncle paid boys twenty-five cents an hour to take their buckets and transport the dirt.
"The End of the Story of a Century"
For T. R. Jordan the Inn became very hard to maintain. With our hard winters and frost it would settle every spring. It also took seventy-five tons of coal to heat it every winter. There were many good offers to buy the inn because of its location from oil companies, but Jordan's determination persisted.
Financially Jordan usually broke even, but there were a few times when he made a little money. The money came from the renting of rooms which is why it became considered as a boarding house. Some renters stayed a total of eighteen years before it was torn down. The other revenue was from renting out the annex. Most of the guests were truckers, who enjoyed the $2.50 a night, and deer hunters, who enjoyed the novelty of the Inn.
Mr. Jordan was quoted saying 'As long as it does that (break even), I'm going to keep it!' The Prindle Inn did not succeed. So, because of all the additions and alterations to the original structure; it did not qualify for funds to preserve a historical sight, and Jordan sold it.
Durand Federal Savings and Loan Association bought the land in 1977. The auction was held on April 22, 1978 all day. It was very official. Nothing was sold before the day. Glen Heit, who handled the sale of the hotel also, said, 'We will sell everything from door knobs to the paneling on the walls.'
President Don Engum said he 'would use the Prindle Inn for business, if it wasn't nearing a century of wear.' A commendable thing he did was designate a room downstairs of the Durand Federal builing to be the Prindle Inn room. It was furnished with items from the Inn. Engum planned to use it for town and business meetings. He hired Company One to paint a mural of the main lobby of the Inn. Bill Hoeser and Dave Constantine designated it to be the illusion of being in the Prindle Inn. It took over most of the room including the floor and ceiling. The mural took more than 300 hours to complete. They painted the ceiling similar to how Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. Features of the mural were: a dumbwaiter, television set,, vases, lights, mirror, radiator, two open windows, the fireplace, and the notable bay window.
I could not help but wonder at the time of the controversy over the Durand Free Library building, which was the oldest building in Durand after the hotel was destroyed, if the Prindle Inn entered anyone's mind. Could it be part of the reason the old library still stands? 'All is never forgotten.' In my opinion the saying that 'we must learn from the past, so the same mistakes are not made twice' is the principle here.
Created by LeeAnn A. Snyder in October of 1997
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