Keller Hotel Comes Back to Life for Strasburg Centennial Celebration

Burke, Allan. "Keller Hotel Comes Back to Life for Strasburg Centennial Celebration." Emmons County Record, 4 July 2002, 10.

A special treat during the Strasburg Centennial Celebration was an open house at the former Keller Hotel.

Brothers Dick and Gary Keller set up the hotel on the second floor much as it was many years ago, and they gathered antiques and other furnishings that matched the period. Rather than to have only motel rooms, they dedicated several rooms to other displays, including fixtures from the former Security State Bank, a barber shop, a dining room (with the original furniture) and a living room from the old days. Another room had memorabilia collected by Gary over the years. His collection includes advertising items from businesses, many of them long defunct.

The Keller family has been in business since January 1911 when grandfather Valentine Keller, Sr. quit farming and bought a buggy and implement shop from early Strasburg businessmen, Will Cleveringa and Louis Dornbush. In 1916 Valentine built the Keller Hotel on the same prominent corner on Stras-burg's Main Street, just a block away from the railroad tracks and the town depot. He also continued the farm equipment business.

In 1941 part of the ground floor was converted to a hardware store. The hotel closed in 1943, and the hardware store expanded on the first floor. The furniture and fixtures were left just as they were for the past nearly 60 years.

In 1947 the business was purchased by Valentine Keller, Sr's three sons, Valentine Jr. (Rudy), Eddie and Max. They got out of the farm equipment business in 1950, and Rudy began to do some excavating work. Rudy bought out his brothers in the mid 50s and operated Keller's Hardware as a family business until his death in 1979.

The business today is owned and operated by brothers, Gary and Dick Keller, and Gary's wife, Judy. Gary returned to Strasburg and the family business in 1967, and Dick returned in 1974. Gary and Judy concentrate on the hardware business and Dick on excavating and plumbing.

They are assisted from time to time by Gary and Dick's sister, Judy Dosch, and their mother, Edythe.

The Keller Hotel above Keller's Hardware was open for tours during the Strasburg Centennial. The hotel operated from 1916 to 1943, and the Keller family left the second floor hotel much as it was for the past nearly 60 years. Beds and dressers were never removed from the rooms, and the original paint is still in good shape on the walls. Brothers Dick and Gary Keller gathered many historical items for the display. Above, Gary points to a picture of the old hotel.
The original furniture from the hotel cafe was set up in one of the rooms. When the hotel operated, the lobby and cafe were on the first floor where the hardware store is today.
Over 500 guests at the open house signed in at the original registration desk. The guest book was the hotel register with original blank pages.
A barbershop is in a former sleeping room. Red Dietz of Linton provided some of the items for the display.
Fixtures from the former Security State Bank were set up in one of the rooms. The old bank building is now the corner portion of the Strasburg State Bank.
This beautifully restored piece was in the former hotel lobby.
Two display cases hold memorabilia in the former hotel. One of the more unusual items is a small flag Emilia (Paul) Keller brought with her from Russia.
The famous black athlete Jessie Owens autographed the wall when he stayed in the hotel in the 1930s. Presumably, the Kellers asked him to share his historic signature.
Light fixtures in the hotel are original except for this one which was added to improve lighting for the open house. It is from Valentine and Emilia Keller¹s home.
This bed and dresser have been in the hotel since the beginning.
Dick Keller set up one room with living room furnishings from the hotel¹s era.
Gary and Dick Keller's grandfather, Valentine, started the family business in January 1911 when he bought a buggy and implement business. Previous owners, Will Cleveringa and Louis Dornbush, are pictured in front of the original building.

Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.

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