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History of the Thayer
The history of the Thayer begins with a fire in 1894 which burned down the Thayer’s predecessor, the Charles Hotel, aka, the Annandale House. The closest help at the end of the 1800’s was Maple Lake’s fire department as Annandale did not have a fire department of its own at the time. By the time the fire was eventually controlled and put out, several buildings in the downtown area of Annandale were lost.
One year after the Annandale fire, in 1895 the Hotel was rebuilt, through funding from both the Soo Railroad Company as well as Albert Augustus “Gus” Thayer. The newly built hotel was named the Thayer Hotel, but was still known to many in the area as the Annandale house. The Thayer Hotel is prime example of the common large wood frame hotels built in the Wright County area at the turn of the 20th century. The Thayer was unique to the other hotels in the area with its full front veranda. It is the only hotel of this kind left from Annandale to survive history.
The Thayer Hotel operated as a Railroad Hotel boasting 22 guest rooms. While the restaurant and lounge were quite extravagant for the time, each guest room was quite small, providing enough space for a bed, and in some cases, a dresser. Caroline Thayer, Augustus's wife, served an extravagant Beef and Oyster Stew at $2.50. The stew was shipped daily over the railroad from the East, considered very expensive & somewhat a luxury at an equivalent of about $65 today. The Thayer Hotel was more technologically advanced than most buildings and businesses at the time in the Annandale area. It was the first building to have gas lights and then electricity which came in 1905.
The railroad line was key to Annandale’s early development as surrounding towns such as Fair Haven, Silver Creek, and French Lake were bustling population centers larger than that of Annandale. But with the arrival of the railroad to the town in the 1880’s, Annandale quickly passed them by as the railroad provided the main methods of transportation for both personal and business travel. The railroad allowed Annandale to prosper as the central town between St. Cloud and Buffalo.
During its heydays, the Thayer attracted many visitors, even notorious ones such as Al Capone. It is said that when Capone wasn't able to make it to his island hideout on Bungalow Island on Clearwater Lake, he would rent out the entire 3rd floor of the Thayer for him and his men. The Soo Railroad Line provided passenger trains to and from Annandale up until the 1960’s, at which point the post WWII highway system was in place making passenger railroads obsolete and just another part of history.
After the departure of passenger trains to Annandale, the hotel’s regular steady stream of guests came to an end, the railroad hotel was no longer needed. As time continued on, it became a live-in hotel. Time took a heavy toll on the Thayer as it eventually stood in shambles, a shadow of what it once was. By 1976 the Thayer hotel sat vacant and ready demolition if not desperate repair. The floors were warped and uneven with warning signs literally warning its past residents of danger, the ceiling barely kept the elements out, with large holes rotting in places. Many of the towns’ folk were ready for the Thayer to be torn down. Some with plans already in place to widen highway 55 once the building was demolished.
Not everyone wanted the building torn down though as they recognized The Thayer as an important part of Annandale’s history and saw the potential in what the building could still offer.
In a battle to preserve the building, which was led in part by a Mrs. Julia Barkley, the building was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 effectively preserving the historic structure from being destroyed. Being put on the list not only protects the building from being moved or demolished, but also ensures the outside of the building is kept the same except for the color being the only thing that can be altered.
Shortly after the building was saved, then former Mayor of Annandale, Wally Houle, with help from local investors such as Ed Kaz, of Kaz Hardware, and others, bought the dilapidated building for a grand total $1. The group began renovations to restore the building at a reported cost of $550,000 in early 80's. The newly renovated hotel & restaurant would reopen again in 1985, 90 years after it was first built. The renovation would convert the 22-room hotel into a twelve-room hotel, each guest room now with its private bath and historic charm. A shared Sauna was built on the third floor. The sauna was an alternative amenity added as most hotels by this time were offering pools, but there was simply no room for a pool at the Thayer.
The building would switch hands numerous times from the late 80's until 1993, when the hotel was bought Sharon Gammel. Gammel would take the hotel into a new direction; a direction that wasn't welcomed by all in the town. Her first weekend open, she ran a Hawaiian Luau in the parking lot, which was by all measures a success with a great turn out. The second event Sharon would host would have an entirely different story. Gammel hosted the male exotic dancing group, Chippendales to the town. While some enjoyed the show, others did not, and organized a picket line around the event. The clash between some of the more conservative towns folk and Gammel resulted in the end of the Thayer being open to the public for over 20 years. After that the Thayer was closed to the general public and available only by reservations as a Bed & Breakfast. Sharon was determined not to let the towns people determine how she was going to run her business and delved deeply in the paranormal aspect of the Thayer, hosting many séances, tarot card readings, and other paranormal events.
After 2 water pipe breaks, insurance claims would allow Ms. Gammel to put in a reported 1.3 million dollars into further renovations, an estimated $200,000 which went into the commercial kitchen equipment alone. The renovations spared no expense when it came to the aesthetic design inspired by Victorian era furnishings and atmosphere. Each room had been furnished with unique and elegant décor specific to the individual room, creating a level of charm that unfortunately few would enjoy. Sharon did not have the bed n’ breakfast open to the public, it was only open to people through reservations. She preferred to keep her clientele small to get to know them, as reported in a 2011 interview. In 2011 Sharon would become involved in a legal dispute and lose the building before passing on in 2012. Leaving one of Annandale’s most recognized and historic buildings again empty and looking for someone to bring the Thayer Hotel back to life.
The Thayer Hotel is what originally brought gourmet chef Robert Krebsbach to the town of Annandale in 1985. Wally Houle, then owner of the hotel, needed a kitchen chef for the newly reopened and remodeled restaurant in the hotel. Robert Krebsbach was hired as that chef. He held that position for nearly four years before moving on to another lead chef position. During these years, Bob established himself as the premier chef in the Annandale area, bringing with him a heavy following of clientele wherever he went. Finally, Bob has come home to The Thayer, bringing his wife, three sons, and one of his daughters, and a granddaughter with him in this family endeavor.
And we would like to welcome you to The Thayer & thank you for your visit!