Inspired by a spirited effort to keep up with the cities of St.Anthony and St. Paul, the founding fathers of Minneapolis lured a couple Boston businessmen west to build the Nicollet House Hotel. James M.Eustis and W.H. Judd promised the new city a five floor, brick building equal to any of the fine hotels that graced the great Eastern cities, at a cost of $100,000 including grounds and furnishings. In return, Minneapolis tax payers provided $10,0000 and cleared a site between Nicollet and Washington Avenues. The 110 room Nicollet House hotel was completed in 1858.
The first story, made of granite, was interspersed by iron columns. Beige bricks were used for the upper stories. Above the hotel’s black cornice, observatories provided visitors with an eye-full of the falls and sweeping views of the “dual cities”, Minneapolis and Saint Anthony. The front doors faced Washington Avenue and led visitors to a second floor office. A separate Hennepin Avenue entrance for ladies brought a rustle and bustle of petticoats upstairs to a reception room also on the second floor. Street level on Washington Avenue was finished for banking offices and stores. A beauty salon and billiard room graced the Hennepin Avenue side of the building.
In addition to offices and reception, the second floor contained a dining room, ladies parlor, a barber and washrooms. Most of the guest rooms were on the third fourth and fifth floors. There were two bridal chambers. The place was fully outfitted. Brussel carpets were laid in hallways throughout the building. Rooms were ventilated with transom windows above every door. Bedroom sets were crafted from black walnut. Magnificent mirrors graced the parlor walls and the bridal chambers. The staff responded to guests by way of speaking tubes and bell-pulls. Nearly all of the furniture was manufactured in Minneapolis. A grand opening supper held on May 26, 1858 brought hundreds of people. A small orchestra entertained and carriage rides were given were free of charge.
The hotel was closed for a season between fall of 1862 of the spring of 1863. After the Civil War it was sold to the Boston firm of Taylor and Foster for $25,000. The hotel changed hands again in 1866 when it was purchased by New Yorker named Gilson for $40,000. In 1871 the Nicollet enclosed a courtyard and installed a fountain. Flowers bloomed every month of the year under glass. A couple tame deer were added for the amusement of guests. The biggest event in the hotel’s history came when the Nicollet House hosted a celebration to mark completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Guests included Generals William Tecumseh Sherman, Phillip Sheridan and John A. Logan and former U.S.Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and James Garfield .
When Mr. Gilson died The Nicollet House was purchased by Minneapolis restaurateur, John T. West. New management were brought in and the hotel’s popularity grew beyond the building’s capacity. West responded to the demand with a new hotel on Fifth and Hennepin. The Hotel Nicollet lost a little luster after the West Hotel opened a couple away in 1884. The city and her visitors were fond of the hotel. Much of the original furnishings were still in evidence and the place became a bit of a shrine to faded glory of the pioneers.
In 1917 Glen S. Dixon bought the hotel. Five years later the 1922 faced closure due to new fire protection ordinances. The expense of installing a modern sprinkler system forced Dixon and the city to find a way toward a new hotel. The Nicollet Hotel Inc. was organized to finance, erect and operated the new hotel. The city helped finance the new building with the sale of $1,800,000 in lease-hold bonds and 1,250,000 of preferred stock. The old Nicollet came down quick. The new 13 story 600 room Nicollet Hotel opened on June 17th, 1924.