In July 1969, a weary Bernice Sutherland, manager of the struggling Rogers Hotel, announced she was throwing in the towel.
The hotel, located on the corner of Grove and East streets at the south end of downtown Bloomington, had seen better, more profitable days. During its heyday, the spacious lobby would be filled with 100 or more guests, ranging from traveling salesmen to convention goers.
But it was clear to Sutherland that visitors to the Twin Cities were favoring the modern hotels and motels along the "Belt Line" (today Veterans Parkway) and the two new interstate highways. She knew the era of the old downtown hotels was coming to an end.
Opened in December 1926, the Rogers Hotel was the result of an ambitious project to convert the J.F. Humphreys and Co. building into a hotel. Howard Humphreys and his son Rogers (the namesake of the hotel) decided their wholesale grocery building would turn a greater profit if converted into a hotel.
It took seven months, 75 workers, and $400,000 to renovate the five-story brick structure into a 150-room hotel.
The doors were opened to much fanfare. With entertainment provided by the local George Goforth Orchestra, a crowd estimated at 5,000 toured the lobby, the coffee shop/restaurant, and the spacious three-room banquet hall.
During its first week of operation, the Rogers served as the headquarters for a statewide American Legion convention.
At the time, there were 11 hotels in downtown Bloomington, including the Arlington (later known as the Tilden-Hall), the Commercial, the Hamilton, the Illinois, and the Windsor. Of those mentioned, only the Illinois, located on the Courthouse Square and now home to retail shops and offices, is still standing.
The Rogers Hotel restaurant, later known as the Fiesta Room, was popular with travelers and local residents. In 1944, $1 was enough to buy a catfish dinner that included chilled grapefruit juice, fried potatoes, buttered baby beets, homemade pecan rolls, a chopped vegetable salad, and dessert.
By the late 1960s, the occupancy rate rarely topped 50 percent, and the downtown real estate market was such that Bernice Sutherland couldn't find a buyer, even though her asking price was a rock-bottom $30,000.
Not long after its lobby doors were shuttered, the Rogers fell to the wrecking ball. Today, the Lincoln Parking Garage, part of the Law and Justice Center complex, occupies the site.
For more information on local history, go to www.history.org.