The Boom Years (Part II of III)

by the Dwight Historical Society

Note: This is part of a weekly series of articles about the Keeley Institute that will be appearing in The Paper until the July 14-17 Alcohol and Drug History Society conference in Dwight.

the livingstonAlthough patients began to occupy The Leslie E. Keeley Co.’s new 56 room hotel April 1, 1891, the grand opening of The Livingston House was delayed until June 3, four days after the committee was formed to keep The Keeley Institute in Dwight.

The three-story, brick hotel had every modern convenience including electric lights, and an annunciator connecting each guest room with the first floor office for service.

The basement boiler provided steam heat to the 90 radiators by electric circulation pumps. There were shared bathrooms on the two guest floors and a large bathroom in the basement with a barber shop. Running cold water came to these rooms from a 60-barrel water tank on the roof supplied by a deep well and windmill.

The committee convened Thursday evening, June 11,

1891, and worked well into the next day. At 8:00 p.m., a band began playing in front of the Keeley offices in the middle of W. Main attracting a packed and jolly crowd.

It was announced that “…the great Gold Cure establishment would remain in Dwight permanently.”

Speakers praised Dr. Keeley and claimed that during the past year the number of patients had quadrupled, and should this continue over the next five years, 300,000 would be treated annually and Dwight could increase to 1,000.

Some thought these growth estimates “wild and wooly” and not everyone was pleased.

During the celebration, the village agreed to construct water and sewer systems, macadamize the streets connecting the two depots, improve the electric plant and install electric street lights.

David McWilliams handed Mayor Thompson the deed to 31 acres which became Renfrew Park. That day The Leslie E. Keeley Co. purchased The McPherson House on E. Main, and announced that the day earlier it had bought Len Hahn’s home and the

313-acre Hahn farm. Keeley pledged to build a 250-room hotel on the site now The Country Mansion. The Keeley also purchased the remaining lots and buildings on W. Main, except for The Cornell House, and it became known as “The Keeley Block.”

“After the speaking, the great crowd adjourned to E. (Main) Street where a beautiful display of fireworks was witnessed,” according to documentation.

Relying on the village’s assurances, The Keeley completed its new lab and administration building south of The Livingston.

The Institute predominately treated men, however, the Livingston had a separate female entrance and segregated lounge.

Late in 1891, the Keeley built the house of seven gables at 202 S. Washington for the Ladies home.

Construction commenced in the middle of The Keeley Block for 1,200-seat opera house, later becoming the Blackstone Theater.

A large, two-story commercial building was built next door containing the Dwight Newsstand. Both were razed for the First National Bank’s parking lot.