Boom Years (Part III 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.

hotel_grand_cent keeley bw

THE NEW STRUFE HOME opened in 1893 after the 1891 fire. It became the Grand Central Hotel in 1909 when bought by William Ketcham. It became the V.A. Nurses quarters in 1919.

Dwight’s population increased by 700 to more than 2,000 in 1891, supporting the projected growth to 8,000 by 1896.
Businesses other than The Keeley grew during these years.
The elegant Pennsylvania House, located in the middle of the 100 E. Block of Mazon Ave. (The Kepplinger Block), opened in the fall of 1891.
Andrew Strufe purchased a hotel from the Rhineholds in 1887, and the sellers retained the adjoining restaurant as the hotel was too small for dining.
The site is now the east end of Harmony Park.
The next year, his wife, Sophia, became the proprietor after their son-in-law murdered Andrew.
In 1890, she bought 10 acres at the end of W. Mazon, that is now the vacant land west of the DQ, and in May 1891, foundation stone was delivered to build a new hotel on that acreage.
In July 1891, school teacher Frank L. Smith, and attorney William Ketcham opened a real estate brokerage office in the Kepplinger Block, building a large business representing the Keeley.
THE NEW STRUFE HOME opened in 1893 after the 1891 fire. It became the Grand Central Hotel in 1909 when bought by William Ketcham. It became the V.A. Nurses
quarters in 1919.
At 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, 1891, a second fire started in the Kepplinger Block and quickly spread from one wood structure to the next. Without working hydrants, the double crank hand engine and steam pumps were of little use.  Citizens and Keeley patients joined in carrying what they could to the street.
The Star & Herald presses were carried out and no issue was missed. Mr. Crocker’s residence was chopped and dragged into Mazon Ave., and this fire break saved the new Pennsylvania. In two hours all structures in the east half of the block were gone including The Perry and Strufe Houses, Rhinehold’s Restaurant, the new Smith and Ketcham offices and The Keeley’s treatment  room purchased that May. After the great fire, the Perrys and Rhineholds did not rebuild. However, The Keeley and Sophia Strufe took advantage of the tragedy by purchasing
adjoining charred lots. Sophia had the foundation stone moved to her now 100 feet of Mazon Ave. frontage to build the new hotel within a block and as a rival of The Livingston. The rectangular basement dug in the 10 acres for the planned hotel made an ideal ice pond. That winter, Sophia’s oldest sons formed the Strufe Ice business. There still was no sewer system, so Sophia’s building permit included a
barn and outhouse.
Prior to the fire, the village had bored a deep well, erected the pump house walls and made the water stack foundation. However, no water flowed through the eight-inch main and hydrants laid in the business district.
Nothing was considered by the village trustees as to a sewer system. Dr. Keeley was greatly disappointed and again threatened to move.
The Keeley posted a bond to pay up to $35,000 of the vital improvements should the company leave, and on Jan. 12, 1892, the trustees adopted a resolution agreeing to Keeley’s demands.
Later that month, the water stack was erected, and the water works were tested. The stack soon proved to be inadequate, so the three Keeley co-founders paid for a new water tower to be dedicated July 4, 1898.