Mary Hill’s diary entry for Friday, August 20, 1886: “A cool morning cloudy very hot day. We went out to Hotel Lafayette and spent the night there with Thornes and Kennedys. Fearful storm in the night. Mamie Phelps Sarah and Mamie came out on train.”
A change of scenery was in order. Visiting from New York, the Thornes and the Kennedys were good friends of the Hills, not just James J. Hill’s business associates. Mary Hill was very proud of the family farm at North Oaks, but it was her job to show her visitors from the East coast all the beauty Minnesota had to offer!
James J. Hill opened the Hotel Lafayette in 1882 on Lake Minnetonka’s Crystal Bay. The hotel was the largest on the lake: 800-feet long and five stories high with over 400 rooms. The parlors, dining and reception rooms were ornately decorated and wide wooden porches faced the lake.
The luxury hotel became a popular destination for wealthy Americans, prominent politicians, and even European royalty. For more than a decade the hotel which had served as the site of many lavish banquets and idyllic summer getaways, burned down after the close of the season, in October 1897.
But on August 20, 1886, the Hotel Lafayette was the perfect backdrop for good friends and family to gather and enjoy a day at Lake Minnetonka. You will see in tomorrow’s diary entry that one night away was plenty for Mary. She was happy to return to her own North Oaks.
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