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“The Dutch Room”

While we’re on the subject of the Dutch in the United States and in Iowa particularly, I recalled a postcard I’d seen some time ago: “The Dutch Room” in the National Hotel, Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was one of those sumptuously appointed interiors with linen table cloths and napkins; the sort of place populated by Edwardian “ladies who lunch” and at other times by Bull Moose businessmen transacting the Big Deal du jour. I suspect smoking was acceptable, mostly cigars with coffee and desert. Surely there were those who thought of cigars as desert.

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Every town of even moderate size had one of these; the Twin Cities undoubtedly had several. Since we’re talking about the Dutch—which, by the way, often meant German (i.e., Deutsch) rather than a native of the Low Countries—this one came to mind. I had thought one of this type would certainly have been in The Blenheim, Agincourt’s fashionable hostelry built circa 1900, though its potential decor hadn’t crossed my mind until this evening.

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Themed restaurants were popular at the turn of the last century, especially if it was “Old World” and affected. East Coast ostentation spread quickly to Cincinnati, Chicago, St Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, anywhere that affluence and conspicuous consumption prevailed. Remember, there was no income tax.

I’d imagined The Blenheim in that category, though very likely scaled down a bit for a town the size of Agincourt, which would have looked to Des Moines and Omaha for models. Agincourt men would certainly have traveled for business, even to Minneapolis and Chicago, and brought back stories of fabulous food and elegant decor; they might even have formed stock companies to replicate those experiences at home. That’s how I imagined The Blenheim’s beginning.

I though of it in terms of elegant cooking and baking (such as Vandervort’s Bakery, which might have been a supplier of breads and pastries) but also because its kitchen had hidden Tadao Ito, a hyphenated Japanese-American seeking shelter during the Second World War. But that’s another story for tomorrow. The last thing I need right now is another design project. Still, how can I avoid the richness in Agincourt’s narrative that might evolve from such a notion.

Mappa Mundi

All I’ve drawn of The Blenheim thus far has been a second floor plan: rooms on a single-loaded corridor surrounding a two- or three-story skylit court. On the ground level, one of those four sides will open into the Blenheim’s dining room, its answer to elegance, posturing and pretension. Whether its a cozy inner elevation or a glazed facade on The Square could be decided soon.

In the meantime, any ideas for the menu?

PS: While I’m thinking of it, have you ever seen Davenport’s Restaurant in Spokane? More food for thought. Or is it more thought about food?

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