Happy hundredth! Graystone Plaza celebrates centennial with tours, history, and a barbershop quartet
It's been 100 years since the Graystone first opened it's doors to the city of Detroit Lakes and its visitors (mostly tourists back then), and hundreds showed up Thursday afternoon to celebrate the building's birthday.
While the brick facility celebrated a historical landmark, turing a century old, none of it would have been possible without the beginning, when E.G. Holmes ordered the building of the Graystone Hotel in 1916 after watching his Hotel Minnesota burn down in 1915. When they built the Graystone, Holmes wanted to ensure it was "fireproof," so they built with brick—the very same bricks that stand today.
A local contractor, August S. "Gus" Randolph, used a giant tent in order to continue constructing the building during the winter, ensuring it would be complete in the fall of 1917.
When it was originally constructed, the first floor featured a cafe, barbershop, writing room and dining room as well as sample rooms for traveling salesmen and a ballroom in the basement.
"With an observatory tower, decorative verandas and balconies, and rooms with baths, visitors enjoy(ed) modern conveniences, with planned excursions to hunting, fishing, boating, and sunbathing opportunities on area lakes and woods," reads a Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation (MMCDC) pamphlet documenting the building's history.
In 1923, an adjacent building was remodeled to accommodate the Hotel's extended-stay guests, bringing the number of hotel rooms from 60 rooms to 100.
Through the late-20's and early 30's the hotel switched ownership, still staying in the family, after Holmes died and bequeathed the building to his niece, Grace Wright, who transferred ownership to her son, Frederick.
Under Frederick's ownership, a corner of the building is leased to Montgomery Ward and the city to open an off-sale liquor store and, around this time, the building also becomes the Greyhound Bus Line stop.
Through the next two decades, the building switched ownership a number of times, and the hotel was eventually converted into apartments and offices in the early 60's.
Due to a lack of upkeep and some less-than-quality tenants, the building became quite seedy, and well-known for increased crime, until 1998 when the MMCDC purchases the building.
The MMCDC worked to place the building on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 and began restoring it and, eventually, purchased and restored the entire Holmes Block, including the Graystone Annex, former Holmes bank, opera house, and Blanding's Department Store buildings.
Today, the building still has 22 apartment units on the second and third floors and continues leasing out commercial locations to businesses like State Farm Insurance, Whitney Sleep Diagnostics, Welte Law, PLLC, and Olivieri's Salon, among others. But the building has housed a number of businesses over the years including Blanding's Hardware, Detroit State Bank, Harris Music, Detroit Lakes Tribune, Service Cleaners, Western Loans Co., American Red Cross, and many others.
During his presentation, Don Blanding, descendant of the owners of the Blanding building, spoke of some of the history behind the connected buildings, going back to a simpler time.
"The whole building was kinda my playground as a kid," he recalled with a smile.
And a barbershop quartet harmonized on upstairs while visitors milled in and out of the building, easing through 100 years of history.