— Story —
History of the Thayer
The Thayer Bed n’ Breakfast, dates all the way back to its predecessor, the Charles Hotel, originally built in 1888. The Charles Hotel was built with substantial funding from the Minneapolis and Pacific Railroad Company, now known as the Soo Line Railroad Company. The Charles Hotel proved to be an important asset to the city of Annandale, serving as a railroad hotel for guests that traveled either through or to the city by railroad. The hotel would gain the nick name, the Annandale House and claim a reputation of excellence in the area. Unfortunately, the Charles Hotel would have a short existence as the building burned down in a fire that swept through part of the city in 1894. The Charles Hotel was one of two hotels built in Annandale during that period. The other was the Pleasant Lake house. Both hotels were similar in design and shape. Each Hotel faced the other positioned on opposite sides of Hwy 55 and the railroad. While the fire only claimed one of the Hotels, Annandale was unable to support the flow of guests from the railroads with just the one hotel.
One year after the fire, in 1895 the Annandale House was rebuilt, again through funding from the railroad company and by Albert Augustus “Gus” Thayer. The newly built hotel was named the Thayer Hotel, but was still known to many as the Annandale house. The Thayer Hotel was also similar in design to the two earlier hotels but was distinctive from the Pleasant Lake House with the Thayer’s balconies on the front. Of the hotels the Thayer was the only one to survive history. The Thayer Hotel operated as a Railroad Hotel boasting 22-30 rooms. Each room was very small providing enough space for a bed and in some cases a dresser. The Thayer at the time served a very extravagant Beef and Oyster Stew at $2.50. The stew was shipped in daily over the railroad from the East. It was considered very expensive and 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 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. 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. While the railroad played a key role in the development of Annandale, The Thayer hotel also played its part to help the prosperity of the town by providing its guests and tourists with a meal and place to stay.
After the departure of passenger trains to Annandale, the hotel’s regular stream of guests came to an end. Eventually business would dry up completely as a railroad hotel was no longer needed. In 1976 the Thayer hotel became vacant and needed repair. Hoping to save the building, the City of Annandale purchased the Hotel for $40,000. It was the city’s hope that someone would come forward to preserve what had become a local landmark to the people of Annandale. However, because a buyer could not be found, the building remained empty, city officials eventually considered demolishing the building.
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 it 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. If the Thayer Hotel was not on this list, the city of Annandale would have demolished the building to allow for the widening of Highway 55. Part of Annandale’s history would be lost forever.
In 1984 then former Mayor of Annandale Wally Houle, with help from investors began renovations to restore the building at a cost of $550,000. The newly renovated hotel would reopen again in 1985 as a hotel, bar and restaurant. The renovation would turn the 22-30 room hotel into a twelve-room hotel, each with its private bath.
In 1993 the hotel would again switch owners as Sharon Gammel purchased the Hotel. Sharon would take the Hotel into a new direction by turning the hotel into a Bed n’ Breakfast. 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. 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 our 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 with him in this family endeavor.