The Farmers’ Hotel

Although the Jackson Hotel stands out as Anoka’s most famous hotel (and is one of the only extant historic hotel buildings in the city today), at one time the city on both sides of the Rum River boasted several places for travelers to lodge. One of these was the Farmers’ hotel, located on the northeast corner of Second Avenue and Jackson Street, facing Second Avenue.

An article from the Anoka County Union, dated August 1885, said, “Mr. G. Bossert commenced breaking ground this week for a two-story hotel,” so it’s safe to conclude the hotel was open for business in either late 1885 or early 1886. Gottlieb Bossert ran it for a few years, although by the time we get to the “Farmers’ House” listing in the 1889-1890 city directory, the owner is given as the “Bossert Estate,” with proprietor Jacob Schwab. Probate records reveal that Bossert passed away on Sept. 30, 1888, leaving Schwab as the executor of his estate; Bossert left behind one 18-year-old son and four minor children.

We do not know exactly how long Schwab continued to manage the hotel past 1889. The next mention of the Farmers’ House appears in the Anoka County Union in late 1891/early 1892. An advertisement by a man named Perley Mason announces he is opening a new hotel and restaurant on Second Avenue, and thanks “all who have been for the past year and a half my customers at the Farmers’ House,” indicating that Mason had run it since 1890 or so. Who took over the Farmers’ Hotel at this point in its history is unknown.

Another newspaper article, this time from the Anoka Herald, picks up the hotel’s story again on Jan. 1, 1897. On that day, the paper ran an article discussing Anoka’s hotels and indicating that the Farmers’ Hotel “was recently purchased by Ed Butler of Minneapolis, a genial and experienced gentleman in this line, and has been fitted up in a modern and comfortable style.” Edward Butler, together with his brother Hugh and sister-in-law Mary, immigrated to the United States from Canada many years earlier in 1880; Edward and Hugh’s parents had been Irish immigrants to Canada. Together, the three of them took over running the Farmers’ Hotel in Anoka. The 1900 census taken three years later lists Edward as the hotel keeper, Hugh as the bar keeper (the hotel also contained a saloon and livery stable), and Mary as housekeeper.

Further newspaper evidence suggests they continued to run the hotel until at least 1910. A nephew named after the brothers, Edward Hugh Butler, also emigrated from Canada in the early 1900s, and he eventually married one of the young women who worked at the hotel, Margaret Miller, in 1906. New cement sidewalks were placed in front of the hotel in 1906, according to one newspaper report, and another dated 1908 indicates that the hotel was connected to the Second Avenue city sewer line late that year.

Mary Butler, Hugh’s wife, died in 1910. The Farmers’ Hotel is still listed in the 1915 city directory, though no owner’s name is given. ACHS is missing the city directories for the remainder of that decade and the beginning of the 1920s, so we are not certain exactly when it ceased to be a hotel. However, the 1920 census shows that Edward and Hugh were living on a farm in Oak Grove, so it seems that they stopped keeping the hotel sometime prior to that year.

Unfortunately, we do not know much about the building’s history beyond that time. One 1922 newspaper article indicates that the building was being converted to a furniture plant for making upholstered furniture, except for “that part [of the building] occupied by N.L. Ropp, the dairy products man.” At some point later, the building was taken down. It seems there may be some intriguing stories still waiting to be discovered about the Farmers’ Hotel.

Audra Hilse is the archivist and administrator for the Anoka County Historical Society.

Photograph of the Farmers’ Hotel in Anoka, taken 1897-1906. The owner, Edward Butler, is identified as the man standing on the far left, wearing an apron. The ground floor contained the saloon, kitchen, and dining room, and the upper two floors were bedrooms. Both of these photographs were donated to ACHS by Lawrence Butler, son of Edward H. Butler and grand-nephew to Hugh and Edward Butler, who owned the hotel. (Object ID# 2057.3.47)

Photograph of the Farmers’ Hotel in Anoka, taken 1897-1906. The owner, Edward Butler, is identified as the man standing on the far left, wearing an apron. The ground floor contained the saloon, kitchen, and dining room, and the upper two floors were bedrooms. Both of these photographs were donated to ACHS by Lawrence Butler, son of Edward H. Butler and grand-nephew to Hugh and Edward Butler, who owned the hotel. (Object ID# 2057.3.47)

Doorway of the Farmers’ Hotel saloon, called Butlers Place, sometime after 1906 (dated because the concrete sidewalks seen in this photograph were installed that year). The second man from the left, standing on the stairs in shirtsleeves, is identified as Edward H. Butler, nephew of the owners. (Object ID# 2057.3.46)

Doorway of the Farmers’ Hotel saloon, called Butlers Place, sometime after 1906 (dated because the concrete sidewalks seen in this photograph were installed that year). The second man from the left, standing on the stairs in shirtsleeves, is identified as Edward H. Butler, nephew of the owners. (Object ID# 2057.3.46)