By Heather Heaton and Allison Pospisil
What once sparkled and rocked with laughter and music, now lies broken and ready for burial. All that remains of the Cedar Springs Hotel is the creaking structure, too fragile for even a walk-through of the building. However, there are many memories of its past recorded in news articles and family stories.
It began with the building of Cedar Springs in 1884 to house workers of a new limestone rock quarry. The quarry’s stone was not as good as it needed to be, so after five or six years, it was closed. The Cedar Springs continued to be open to guests, a young man named Adolph Biderman remembers working there when he was 16 years old.
He had two friends who shared the job of pumping water and their pay was fifteen cents an hour, each received one nickel an hour. They pumped water to make root beer; they could make 100 bottles at a time. Adolph also remembers taking care of the horses the visitors rode. One 4th of July, he had to put up 72 horses.
When the hotel came up for sale in 1912, Adolph Biderman bought the hotel. It took three years to restore it, and during that time he married his wife,Beatrice. Together they reopened the hotel in 1915.
The Good Years
The hotel itself had 16 rooms. There were three stall outhouses for the men and the women out back. A large kitchen and dining room took up most of the downstairs. Adolph’s granddaughter, Patricia Biderman, retrieved the old hotel registry. The tattered book tells the story of the many guests who visited. At first they came by horse and carriages, and later by train. At one time, there had been a rail spur of the Chicago and Northwestern trains for the quarry, which came from Bertram. There was also the interurban rail system, which was in Mt. Vernon and also in the Upper Palisades. Ben Biderman, who was Adolph’s son remembers his father going to pick up visitors from both train stops. One newspaper said, “City folk from Cedar Rapids used to ride out on the excursion train for a good time holiday party, or a Sunday Chicken dinner.” People would come from Cornell and Coe College, and the paper called it a “rendezvous for students.”
At the peak of its glory, The Cedar Springs had a famous group called the Cherry Sisters perform on the hotel stage. The chicken dinner served at the hotel was famous, reservations were recommended to get in to eat. Beatrice Biderman was the cook, and she said, “We serve good chicken or none. It takes about three hours to fix a chicken up right.” At one time, it cost 25 cents to eat dinner. There were also homemade kolaches.
In 1934 Mr. and Mrs. Boggs came to the hotel and helped the Bidermans run the hotel. For eight years they were a part of the restaurant and then they actually took over the operation. Business began to dwindle after World War II and the Bidermans sold the hotel to a couple who ran it as the Old Dutch Inn. This name can still be seen on the North entrance of the building. It seems business just wasn’t as good for them and so in 1964 the couple closed the doors and the Cedar Springs Hotel was no longer open to the public.
In September of 1967, a married couple, Dr. Lee Layton a professor at Cornell and his wife who taught at Coe found the Cedar Springs and rented the entire building as their home. They made the lobby their living room and the kitchen worked well when they entertained- sometimes up to eighty people. The big oven could make up to 20 dozen cookies at a time.
After the Leightons, others continued to rent part of the hotel, and slowly the upstairs became closed off, then other parts were shut down. It was difficult to maintain such a large building. Ben Biderman, the son of Adolph, his wife Eleanore, and family continued to live in the home built nearby. There are cabins surrounding the hotel rented by other individuals and the Bidermans continued to maintain the grounds surrounding it. What remains of the hotel are just the leaning structures, but the beauty of the river, the trees and well-kept lawns still haunt all visitors who chance upon it.
By Heather Heaton and Allison Pospisil
When Mr. Meeker assigned this project to us, we went looking for a historical site. The reason we chose this one was because Allison’s great aunt and uncle are Ben and Eleanore Biderman. Allison’s grandparents, Robert and Clara Pospisil celebrated their wedding dinner at the Cedar Springs Hotel Oct. 14th, 1947.
We got a lot of information from Patricia Biderman, The daughter of Ben and Eleanore. We also received information from Jim and Karen Jordan who have lived near the hotel for many years.