A century ago, in late February 1919, the Grand Hotel on the northeast corner of Lincoln Avenue and Vine Street in Fergus Falls was a high-class establishment. The hotel was known not only for its outstanding lodging but also for its exquisite lower level restaurant.
The elegant three-story hotel, constructed with local brick in 1883, had 100 rooms. The hotel once stood at what’s now the location of Walgreens, across the street from Service Food Market in downtown Fergus Falls.
Salesmen and visitors from out of town who dined at the Grand Hotel restaurant, in addition to area residents, were served by waiters who wore white jackets. Close to 20 waitresses provided service for elaborate meals.
It was a full menu, with people ordering steak or lobster on special occasions.
The dining room of the hotel was 30 by 63 feet in size. Cooks labored over coal-burning ranges, oftentimes baking bread and pastries.
Nobody could imagine in late February that just four months later, on June 22, 1919, the Grand Hotel would be leveled by a tornado and close to 30 guests and hotel employees would lose their lives.
Some of us were reminded of this tragedy on Feb. 15 when Lance Johnson, author of the 1982 book, “Fergus Falls Cyclone,” spoke on this subject at the county museum in Fergus Falls.
In all, 57 people lost their lives and more than 150 people were injured a century ago this coming summer.
“This was the most impactful event in the history of Fergus Falls,” Johnson said. “As an example of the destruction, one could walk across Lake Alice atop strewn lumber from the cyclone in June 1919.”
Johnson said the cyclone a century ago actually included four funnels. Two struck the city of Fergus Falls and two struck in rural Fergus Falls. A passenger train was struck by a cyclone funnel near Carlisle, but nobody was seriously injured.
The presentation by Johnson will be followed by other speakers at the county museum, Friday mornings at 10 a.m. through March 22. An exhibit on the Fergus Falls cyclone can be seen Monday through Friday at the county museum from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Johnson, a 1956 Fergus Falls High School graduate, plays the pipe organ on occasions at A Center for the Arts. He is also the owner of Johnson Organ Company in Fargo.
He was a college student in Fargo when, in 1957, a tornado struck that community, killing 12 people.
The Fergus Falls cyclone which killed 57 people is the second deadliest tornado in Minnesota. In 1886 there were 72 deaths from a tornado that struck St. Cloud and nearby Sauk Rapids.
Henning returns to statewide recognition
Twins Bob and Dick Peterson led the Henning Hornets to the state high school boys basketball tournaments in 1965 and 1966.
This captured the attention of basketball fans across the state, during a one-class system of Minnesota boys basketball. Henning lost to powerful Edina in the 1966 state semifinals, but not before taking the Twin Cities suburban school to three overtimes.
This year the Henning boys basketball team was undefeated through late February, with two pairs of twins on the team.
Lee and Luke Bjorklund are junior guards. Juniors Blake and Blaine Wallevand play guard and forward, respectively.
An older Bjorklund brother, Jack, is a senior guard. These five players are first cousins.
Head coach for the Hornets is Randy Misegades. Henning will play in Section 6A come tournament time, one of four classes of high school basketball.
Writing about the present-day Henning Hornets team on Feb. 16 was Minneapolis Star-Tribune sports columnist Patrick Reusse.
If you want to go down memory lane about Henning basketball, purchase the book “Orange and Black.” The author is Henning native Cliff Buchan, retired editor of the Forest Lake Times.
His book covers the entire history of Henning basketball.
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.