Lester Prairie Hotel
During its nearly 100-year history, it has served as a haven for travelers, and a home for the care of the elderly and the handicapped.
A history of change
The building’s current condition is a stark contrast from the days when it was a landmark known throughout the region.
Les Baumann, a life-long Lester Prairie resident, remembers the days when it was a successful hotel. “Salesmen from all over would come in on the train, and they would stop and stay at the hotel overnight,” Baumann said.
Julius and Karoline Klatt and their family had leased a hotel in the city since 1891.
In 1910, they built a new three-story brick hotel on property purchased from C.A. Ingerson. The hotel had 23 bedrooms, a large kitchen and dining room, two reception rooms, and a waiting room. On the outside, there was a large two-story porch in the front, and another porch in the back. The property was surrounded by a white picket fence.
The business was run successfully by the Klatt family for many years, but began to decline as roads improved and salesmen began to travel by automobile rather than by rail. The hotel business ended about 1936, although the Klatt family maintained ownership of the property.
The next brief chapter in the life of the building came in 1941, when Dr. James, a faith healer, practiced there. Patients from a wide area came “to be healed by the laying on of his healing hands.”
Martha and Bertha Klatt sold the property to Adah Spellum and her son, Karl Spellum, in January, 1946. The Spellums planned to convert the hotel to a nursing home for the care of elderly or handicapped patients. Many changes were needed before this could happen. The gas lights were replaced by new electric lights, the building was re-plumbed to add more bathrooms to replace the outhouse, and fire escapes replaced the knotted ropes in the upstairs hotel rooms.
The new business was named the Alice Haney Nursing Home, as a tribute to Adah Spellum’s mother. It opened to patients Feb. 15, 1946. There were two classifications of patients. “Up patients” were charged $60 per month, while “bed patients” paid $90 per month. Over the years, the focus changed to serve the mentally handicapped.
Adah Spellum died in 1969, and Karl Spellum sold the property to his assistant, Tom Bettendorf, in 1981. Bettendorf continued to operate the business for a time. Eventually, the business was closed, and the property stood vacant for a few years.
It was then purchased by a family with 12 children, and used as a private residence. The current owners purchased the property several years ago.
Note: information on the history of the property was adapted from the book “Lester Prairie Community 1886-1986,” researched and written by Barbara and Milan Dammann, with additional research by Charlotte Ehrke.
History from http://www.herald-journal.com/archives/2006/stories/hotel.html