Revised. Mike Worcester, "Lost Cokato: Cokato's Hotels." In The Midst Of, Cokato Historical Society (Spring, 1998) vol. 18 no. 2.
In the early morning hours of July 8, 1977, a fire started in one of the rooms of the Cokato Hotel, located next to the railroad tracks. In an era before mandatory smoke alarms, fire spread through the wood and brick structure, claiming five lives and destroyed the entire building. The fire also brought down the only hotel remaining in the community, and one has not been built since.
But there was a time when Cokato had as many as three hotels that stood ready to serve weary travelers passing through town.
In the early 1870s, Cokato had three hotels. The first, the Atlantic Hotel, was run by J. E. Jenks. The second hotel proprietor Berger Thurstenson built on Millard Avenue in 1872. The establishment was named the Pacific House (see photo above). The third, The Grand Central Hotel, was constructed initially as a store by Samuel Jenks in 1870. The store was later turned into an actual hotel by L. W. Perkins in 1872. The fate of the Atlantic and The Grand Central Hotel is unknown, however the Pacific Hotel became the personal residence of Thurstenson between 1872 and 1883.
Both hotels also served as temporary residences for people who were working on the railroad or hired for temporary jobs in town. Many new immigrants would spend their first few days under Runions or Carlson’s roofs. (Last summer a family from Sweden brought in a letter from one of their ancestors that was written on Western House stationery. The letter described the man’s journey to Cokato and his difficulty in finding work here.)
One of the club’s members (Dr. Tate) dressed as a woman, using a veil to cover his face. When the train arrived he (she) was approached by Runions who escorted him (her) to his hotel. Upon arriving at the hotel, Dr. Tate expressed dismay and noted that he (she) was supposed to meet a business associate at the Western House. Runions, being the gentleman he was, escorted the impostor to Carlson’s hotel. Upon their arrival, Dr. Tate lifted his veil and exposed the ruse. Runions was reportedly angry, but did not retaliate against the pranksters.
Both hotels were also social centers in the community. Wedding receptions, New Years Balls, and extravagant parties were just some of the activities that took place there.