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Hotel William was high-class stop in Hancock

       Traveling down Highway 9 around the city of Hancock, one runs across Hancock Concrete, several churches and homes, a gas station and a bar. A century ago, before the road’s diversion, one would have gone directly through the business district and been slowed down by the fine establishments then along Pacific Avenue, including the nationally known Hotel William. Hotel William was known far and wide for its high-class menu.  Manager and later owner William Anderson came to Hancock with the credentials of having been a professional chef and baker  in Minneapolis. He and his wife, Freda, gained a strong reputation for their meticulousness.  At its peak it boasted fine Swedish cuisine and a porterhouse steak that would send tongues dancing and shirt-buttons popping. Hunters also added to the hotel’s popularity as Hancock was considered the “Pheasant Capital of the State.” The plot of land the hotel sat on has been in use almost as long as Hancock has been a city.  It began as a two-story building built in 1880 by A.J. Comstock, owner of Hancock’s The Central House Hotel, in an adjacent lot. In 1895, Isaac Lemaster, who had purchased the property the year before, filled “the long want in Hancock of a first-class hotel.” In July of that year the simple two- story structure had been remodeled into the newly christened Hotel Columbia. A first-class hotel had indeed found its way to Hancock, and it would remain that way for 50 years. The Columbia Hotel served multiple purposes beyond renting rooms.  A posting in the Hancock Record from August 5, 1904, states, “Dr. O.C. Nelson dentist of Morris at the 15th and 16th of each month.” In 1908, William Anderson became the proprietor and, in 1921, the owner. Hence giving the hotel its better-known name. He and his wife and daughter continued running it until 1945 when poor health forced him to sell to the Steinbrings, who opened a car dealership across the street. In 1949, it was resold and became a boarding house, and later a care facility called Glendalai. In 1987, Prairie Community Waivered Services purchased it and rehonored its past by renaming it The Williams Home.These days the building on the corner of Sixth and Pacific sits idle. It closed in the mid-2000s after having been having been a group home for the mentally ill, known as the Williams Home, for nearly 20 years. It became unsustainable because of heat loss from the old steam heating system and the porous nature of the structure. There has been much written about “The Lost Twin Cities.” The closing of the building, is an example, perhaps, of “Lost Hancock.” There are no more hotels, no drug stores, no hardware stores and no grocery store. The city has only about half the population it did at its peak. Although turned down in its application to be designated as a state historic site in 1984, the former Williams Home in Hancock (now standing vacant) is historically significant to western Minnesota.

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