Early Days of the Prospect Inn

James A. Colehour purchased lots 12 and 13 of Block 26 Bowman and Dunton Division of Battle Lake on April 29, 1882 for $50. He commenced building his “Chicago House” immediately, using the same plans he had used for their home in Lake View Township, IL. It cost him about $800 to build and they moved in on July 1, 1882. The Prospect House was built in the spring of 1887 as an addition to the Chicago House. It was opened for business on May 28, 1887. The first guests were from Fergus Falls and Breckenridge, MN. The ground floor of the Chicago House was used for card parties for the tourists. The men played poker and smoked cigars in one room (the present kitchen) and the ladies played bridge in another room, (present living room).

As many as ten maids were employed at the hotel and they could feed up to 105 people per meal. There were 26 bedrooms in the house and during busy times rented rooms from private homes around Battle Lake. Tourists generally came by train and stayed the whole summer. Eventually, children and grandchildren of the original tourists also were visitors. Cap had a stable, which he used to take tourist out fishing or riding. He kept his own cows as an advantage for the tourists. For many years the hotel was the largest employer in town. Activities for the tourists included boating, fishing, swimming and steamboat excursion around the lake. There was a large canopied deck where the tourists could sit and while away the hours. The Prospect Inn was the social center of town for many years.

The Prospect House was not heated or insulated and did not have a basement. It could only be used in the summer. The Colehour family occupied the upper rooms of the Chicago House in the summers and the entire house in the off seasons. The smaller house to the south, called San Juan, was built by Cap in the early 1900s to house his family so there would be more rooms to rent in the Prospect House. Mr. and Mrs. Colehour operated the Prospect House, or Prospect Inn, as it was later called, for 38 years. They retired in 1925 when Cap was 83 and Kate was 75 years of age.

The Prospect Inn was used for a short time after 1925 as rooms for tourists but no meals were served. In 1929 Mr. Colehour sold the property to his son-in-law, Ernest C. Wilkins, who built a modern home around the main hotel building soon after. The Chicago House was moved across the street to its present location in 1929 and was rented until 1968 when it was sold.