Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Chicken Inn

On our way to Corning last weekend, as we passed The Chicken Inn, I noted that the sign reads simply "The Inn". "Why have we always called it 'The Chicken Inn'?" I asked Bud. He didn't know either. We discussed the possibility it had something to do with once being known for serving good chicken. I made a note to myself to google it when we got home to see if I could find any history about the place.

And guess what - The Inn became known as 'The Chicken Inn' pre-WWII when the owners, Harold and Elsa Collings ran a restaurant and bar at this location. Their specialty was the chicken dinners they served with the main ingredient being the chickens they raised in a pen back of the restaurant. The dinners were so popular in the area that people began calling it "The Chicken Inn". I'm getting this information from the Iowa Rock and Roll Music Association website. You can read more about The Inn here.

I never knew that The Chicken Inn grew out of a roadhouse once known as 'The Maples' which was closed for selling bootleg liquor during prohibition. I only knew of it as a place for dining and dancing. When I was in high school, the music was usually rock and roll, though I had heard stories of how the big bands used to play there in the 40's.

That was after the old restaurant/bar burned down the the current building was constructed with the large ballroom at the back. I only have one faint memory of going there to dance in the early 60's. However, the memory of our fifth year class reunion being held there is a little stronger. That was in 1966 when The Chicken Inn was still a happening place.

That orange door in a previous picture was the main entrance, but you could also go in the basement door and up the stairs to enter. As people began traveling longer distances for entertainment and the ballroom dance days wound down, the new owner of The Inn tried different ways to make the building pay its way. One of those was leasing the basement as an antiques store. I know I stopped there to look around one time in the 90's. There was also something called the Country Thrift Store there for awhile. Neither lasted too long.

Last I knew there was still dancing being held on Wednesday nights, but that was before the owner died. I don't know what is going on with the building now, whether it is for sale or just biding its time. But once upon a time it was the place to go - back in the day.

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