The Merchant's Hotel was one of the first hotels in Mandan which opened for business in January 1880 at 112 East Main Street. Built by Henry & Philomena Yunck, the hotel continued to operate until 1920. It was situated in a favorable location, between the early railroad depot and the Emerson Institute (later expanded to become the "Opera House".) After the railroad moved into a new larger depot three blocks west in 1883, the hotel serviced primarily railroad workers and immigrants.
Exerpt from 1883 Stoner "Birds Eye View of Mandan"
Henry and Philomena Yunck with 2-year old daughter Marie moved to Bismarck, DT in 1878 and resided at the steamboat landing while operating a boarding house. Philomena cooked meals for the bridge building crew and Henry worked as a laborer on the landing. In 1879, the couple decided to move their family, now with the addition of son Joseph, across the river to Mandan. In January 1880, they celebrated the grand opening of the hotel.
Philomena was well known for her delicious meals. Breakfast included hotcakes, sausage or bacon with fruit, with all the coffee one could drink for only 10¢. Dinners were no more than 65¢. She cooked meals for the Marquis de Mores while he was being jailed behind the hotel, awaiting trial for murder.Chief Si Tanka (aka Chief Spotted Elk, also referred to as Big Foot) was a frequent guest at the Yunck's for dinner during his travels back and forth from Cannonball.
Theodore Roosevelt was also a familiar figure at the hotel in the early 1880s for stops to go duck hunting with close friends during trips between Bismarck and Medora. Grover Cleveland also appears in the 1884 hotel registry. Unregistered guests included countless immigrants relocating to Dakota Territory. The Yuncks frequently offered them free meals and lodging; to a point where a separate building was erected on the back portion of the lot expressly for the purpose.
1883 East Main St (Merchants Hotel in center)
Herman Yunck, Henry's younger brother, was born in 1854 in Richmond, MN. He moved to Mandan in 1881 and worked for D.R. Taylor (druggist) and the NP Railway. He was also employed on various riverboats for several years before operating a saloon owned by Henry. Henry died in April 1884. Herman married his brother's widow Philomena in 1886 and continued to operate the hotel with her. Together, they raised a total of six of Philomena's seven children.
Herman was a charter member of the Mandan volunteer fire department; running the Hook and Ladder Company. He died on September 23, 1913. Pallbearers at his funeral included early city leaders including D.R. Taylor, Charles Wyman, John Foran, Pat Tobin, H. L. Henke and George Bingenheimer.
Undated Photo of Acrobatic Troop Performing on East Main Street (Merchants Hotel on right)
The building's operation converted to a boarding house in 1920. Polish immigrant Emil Block moved over from Bismarck, married daughter Willamina, and opened a first-class tailor shop in the front. Philomena Yunck continued to live in the building with her daughter (also referred to as "Minnie") and son-in-law until her death in 1925.
After Emil Block retired from his tailor business in 1953, the space was taken over as "Seebs Shoe Repair" and finally operated as Ray's Bootery.
In February 1965, firefighters battled for 3 hours to extinguish a major fire at the site. A family member was rescued by firefighters in the blaze. The fire started in the basement, and quickly spread to both adjacent commercial buildings due to high winds. At the time, it was home to Ray's Bootery, owned and operated by Ray Mosbrucker. Other businesses involved in the fire included Seeb's Shoe Repair and the vacant / former Friesz Grocery building.
The Society would like to thank Laine Pope for sharing information on her great grandparents with us.
The MHSoc's museum and office is located at 3827 30th Avenue NW; Mandan, ND 58554 Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org