Taking Car e of our Visitors; Hotels, Motels, and Cottages From Cumberland’s Past

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The Cumberland Hotel was a thing of beauty at the turn of the century

By Mark R. Fuller

Tourism has been a part of Cumberland and its economy since its beginnings in 1874. In today’s world, this includes the sometimes endless line of cars that can be seen at the four-corner stop on Friday afternoons. Better than simply driving through town, is the car that stops to shop or stay at one of the motels in town.
To accommodate these occasional overnight visitors, Cumberland reached out to them with their first hotel, the Cumberland House, built in 878 by Nels Jacobson. It was located on Second Avenue, behind where the old Pioneer Meat Market sat.
As today, many of the early travelers to Cumberland simply wanted a clean room, a place to sleep and a nearby place to get something to eat.
The following summer, in 1879, J.S. Collingwood erected the Collingwood House, which was also located on Second Avenue, near where we find Augustana Lutheran Church. It was considered a bit of an upgrade over Cumberland’s previous lodging house.
The Southern part of town continued to dominate the hotel scene, when two years later, the American House was built, also on Second Avenue. Presided over by “Mother” Brown, this hostelry, or Inn, would be destroyed by fire in 1884. The later 1880s and early 1890s would see the further building of the Merchant’s Hotel, the Central Hotel and the Windsor Hotel.
The Merchants Hotel was originally the Robbins House and was built on the corner of Second Avenue and Foster Street. During its history, it would be known by several names, including the Sherman House, Jeffrey Hotel and the Depot Hotel.
The Central Hotel, also on Second Avenue, was owned and operated by August Mahre,  It was destroyed by flames in 1889 and its destruction led to an investigation for arson.
The Windsor Hotel added a livery, feed, and sale stable to its offerings saying it was, “Equipped with good reliable fast horses and new rigs, which are ready for service any time of the year above the barn.” First operated by Nels Paulson, he had traded part of the land he owned for the Hotel, which he managed for six years before the Johnson family would take over the building.
For those perhaps staying in the city for a longer period of time,  a cottage on the lake was another option. They could be found in large numbers, scattered throughout the area. Week-long vacationers were transported via boat to their cottage of choice, generally costing them $10.00 for a week’s use. Frequented by many from the Twin Cities, by the 1940s many of these structures were bought up and turned into individual homes.
A May 5, 1892, Advocate advertised these varied accommodations by saying, “Alighting at Cumberland, either day or night, you are escorted to one of the finest summer resort hotels to be found anywhere in the Northwest. After your wants have been supplied in the most luxurious manner, you are able to settle down to a midsummer indulgence seldom found in such completeness and nowhere else at the low cost at which it is furnished here.” By this date, fires had already taken their toll on our city and a city directory in that same newspaper, listed only the Sherman House (original Merchant’s Hotel), the Windsor Hotel, the Commercial Hotel and the Hotel Cumberland in its listings.
Of these, the Hotel Cumberland was far and away the prize of these buildings. Construction for this magnificant building began in the fall of 1890, with its grand opening held on March 10, 1891.
An 1891 Advocate, shortly before its opening, said of the Hotel, “It is without question, the largest, finest, most pretentious and costly hotel in northwestern Wisconsin, between Lake Superior and St. Paul.
Built at a cost of $15,000.00, the Hotel’s architect was L.S. Hicks of Oshkosh, of whom the Advocate said, “His reputation is not limited to Wisconsin.” It contained three stories and two wide verandas that extended around  the two towers.  The interior was finished with hardwood and Georgia pine with the walls largely papered. Containing 46 rooms, the initial cost for a night’s stay was $2.00.
Two hundred and twenty-five dignitaries from Barron County attended its grand opening and it continued to serve the public until 1961. Demolished in 1965, a year later the site would become the ground breaking for a new building, the Northwestern State Bank.
As its time ended, the Ambrose Motel and Lou-Ann Motel had just started their history. From there, the 1980s brought the Island Inn and still later the  AmeriVu Inn and Suites to Cumberland’s landscape. The AmeriVu Inn and Suites own history is now undergoing changes. It has been the history of lodging for the visitors to Cumberland.



Cumberland Advocate

375 2nd Ave, PO Box 637
Cumberland, WI 54829
Phone: (715) 822-4469
Hours:  8:30 AM–4:30 PM M-F