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Dells River Inn History

Our History

Spend your Wisconsin Dells vacation with spectacular views just walking distance from downtown. The River Inn team has taken great effort to create one of Wisconsin Dell’s first Boutique Hotel.This perfectly located Hotel has been undergoing extensive renovations, including upscale bedding covered by triple sheeted microfiber linen, 50 inch TVs with high definition, Bluetooth speakers and convenient USB plugins.

Plus, the Riverside Deck and Boat Dock have been added back to further the Hotel guest experience. The unique Indoor Pool and hot tub that are located on the first floor 20 feet from Wisconsin river’s edge, plus an onsite Lounge is scheduled to open this year.

Image of The Logging Era

1830's and 1840's

The Logging Era

The property where the River Inn eventually was built is located about 3 blocks north of the main intersection of downtown Wisconsin Dells on River Road. In the 1830s and 1840s, Wisconsin was the nation's leading logging state. Lumber cut throughout the state was felled and then transported down the Wisconsin River and then the Mississippi River to as far south as St. Louis. At the northernmost part of the Dells the lumberjacks would tie their lumber together in large long rafts because at that time the river had high sandstone banks, incredible current, sharp bends and rapids. The lumberjacks would take these rafts through the Dells and past the River Inn property. This was a risky endeavor and some lost their lives.

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The property where the River Inn eventually was built is located about 3 blocks north of the main intersection of downtown Wisconsin Dells on River Road. In the 1830s and 1840s, Wisconsin was the nation's leading logging state. Lumber cut throughout the state was felled and then transported down the Wisconsin River and then the Mississippi River to as far south as St. Louis. At the northernmost part of the Dells the lumberjacks would tie their lumber together in large long rafts because at that time the river had high sandstone banks, incredible current, sharp bends and rapids. The lumberjacks would take these rafts through the Dells and past the River Inn property. This was a risky endeavor and some lost their lives.

Image of The Steamboat Era

1880's - Early 1900's

The Steamboat Era

The earliest tours of the Dells rock formations and rocky gulches were given in rowboats. A guide would row the boat and tells his guests about the Dells. A lunch would be packed because it took a long time and hard work to row against the strong river current. This changed when steamboats started to give tours. In 1867 the steamboat Dell Queen was built and launched on the river. In the early 1900s, the Kilbourn Dam was built in the Dells. This dam was located about one-half mile down river from the River Inn property. The dam raised the water above the dam by about 20 feet covering up some of the rock formations. In the early 1900s, many dams were built on the Wisconsin River greatly restricting boat traffic and ending the steamboat era for commercial and passenger use. Steamboats continued to operate in the Dells for tourism purposes only into the 1930s.

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The earliest tours of the Dells rock formations and rocky gulches were given in rowboats. A guide would row the boat and tells his guests about the Dells. A lunch would be packed because it took a long time and hard work to row against the strong river current. This changed when steamboats started to give tours. In 1867 the steamboat Dell Queen was built and launched on the river. In the early 1900s, the Kilbourn Dam was built in the Dells. This dam was located about one-half mile down river from the River Inn property. The dam raised the water above the dam by about 20 feet covering up some of the rock formations. In the early 1900s, many dams were built on the Wisconsin River greatly restricting boat traffic and ending the steamboat era for commercial and passenger use. Steamboats continued to operate in the Dells for tourism purposes only into the 1930s.

Image of The Blackhawk Era

1924 - 1955

The Blackhawk Era

In 1924, Josiah J. Barret bought the property where the River Inn later stood. He and his wife, Theodosia, built a new modern river hotel, The Blackhawk. The Hotel Blackhawk was the most progressive and modern hotel in the Dells.
When the Hotel Blackhawk opened in 1924 a room with bath rented for $1.00 per day which included meals and parking.
The Blackhawk Hotel was a first class hotel. It had an incredibly lobby, extensive porches and a "White Cloth" dining room. The Barret's operated the Hotel Blackhawk until 1950.
From 1950 to 1955 the Blackhawk was owned by several individuals.

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In 1924, Josiah J. Barret bought the property where the River Inn later stood. He and his wife, Theodosia, built a new modern river hotel, The Blackhawk. The Hotel Blackhawk was the most progressive and modern hotel in the Dells.
When the Hotel Blackhawk opened in 1924 a room with bath rented for $1.00 per day which included meals and parking.
The Blackhawk Hotel was a first class hotel. It had an incredibly lobby, extensive porches and a "White Cloth" dining room. The Barret's operated the Hotel Blackhawk until 1950.
From 1950 to 1955 the Blackhawk was owned by several individuals.

Image of The Baryenbruch Era

1958 - Early 1976's

The Baryenbruch Era

In 1955, Robert Mael and Roland and Pauline Baryenbruch owned the Blackhawk. In 1958 the Baryenbruch's became sole-owners. From 1958 until 1976 Roland, Pauline and their family poured their hearts and souls into the Blackhawk.
During this time, the Baryenbruchs changed the name from the Hotel Blackhawk to the River Inn. The Baryenbruchs completely remodeled the old hotel making it a modern facility again. During the remodeling, they added a new bar room, a back bar and entertainment area, converted the old dining room to their three bedroom living quarters, built a large new dining room that literally hung over the river, added an entertainment room that could also be used for meetings which was above the new bar room, built an outdoor swimming pool and added a new motel building across the street. The Baryenbruch's put new facing on the entire structure. They also took out all of the outdoor porches, with the exception of the one in front of their living quarters, and put balconies on all of the rooms facing the river.

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In 1955, Robert Mael and Roland and Pauline Baryenbruch owned the Blackhawk. In 1958 the Baryenbruch's became sole-owners. From 1958 until 1976 Roland, Pauline and their family poured their hearts and souls into the Blackhawk.
During this time, the Baryenbruchs changed the name from the Hotel Blackhawk to the River Inn. The Baryenbruchs completely remodeled the old hotel making it a modern facility again. During the remodeling, they added a new bar room, a back bar and entertainment area, converted the old dining room to their three bedroom living quarters, built a large new dining room that literally hung over the river, added an entertainment room that could also be used for meetings which was above the new bar room, built an outdoor swimming pool and added a new motel building across the street. The Baryenbruch's put new facing on the entire structure. They also took out all of the outdoor porches, with the exception of the one in front of their living quarters, and put balconies on all of the rooms facing the river.

Image of River Inn Resort Today

2017

River Inn Resort Today

What’s old is new again for a long-time Wisconsin Dells hotel property and its owners, and all indications are the hotel’s new concept at a historic location is tailor-made for the city and its downtown, river-themed revitalization effort.

Adam, David and Rich Makowski — whose family has owned and operated hotels, restaurants and a gas station in the Dells since 1973 — have been working to remodel the property.

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What’s old is new again for a long-time Wisconsin Dells hotel property and its owners, and all indications are the hotel’s new concept at a historic location is tailor-made for the city and its downtown, river-themed revitalization effort.

Adam, David and Rich Makowski — whose family has owned and operated hotels, restaurants and a gas station in the Dells since 1973 — have been working to remodel the property.