Carpenter's Steakhouse photographed in April 2008

Carpenter's Steakhouse photographed in April 2008

Carpenter’s was located at 14559 Forest Boulevard North in downtown Hugo, Minnesota bordering Egg Lake and across from where the Hugo Depot once stood. It consisted of two sections, a main section built in 1891, and a dance hall was added in 1902.

Joseph Carpenter founded a general store in the Village of Hugo in 1891 where he sold groceries and feed. When Joseph sold the business to his son, Frank, in 1902, a dance hall was added. Frank later sold the establishment in 1922. Several owners later, in 1957, members of the Carpenter family brought it back into the family. [ref] Around 1970 Catherine Anderson and her late husband Swan purchased Carpenter’s Restaurant. After Swan died in 1981, Catherine began operating the restaurant with her son, Mike.

Re-development Plans

On May 18, 2009, the Hugo City Council approved plans along with Tax Increment Financing assistance to build a new 8,000 square foot single story Carpenter’s restaurant on the same site. The plans called for French “trading post” architecture as described in the city’s mater renovation plan, and a 1,000 foot dock overlooking the lake. At the time, construction was to begin in 2010. [ref]


Carpenter's day after fire

Remains from fire

On Sunday, January 3, 2010, the 119 year old Carpenter’s was destroyed by a fire.

The fire was reported around 9:30 am and several hours later, 50 firefighters from six departments including Hugo, White Bear Lake, Forest Lake, and Centennial Lakes, continued to battle the fire in sub-zero temperatures. [ref] Smoke could be seen for miles around and U.S. Highway 61 was shut down with traffic being rerouted through the city [ref]

As with other fires the same day across the Twin Cities Metro area, the cold contributed to water lines freezing. The reported high was 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Besides the weather, Hugo Fire Chief Jim Compton said that the old construction was also a factor. [ref]

Reported by the Star Tribune: “[City Administrator Mike] Ericson said that Carpenter’s was ‘our signature restaurant in town’ and said the fire would rival the 2002 American Legion fire in its loss of city history.”[ref]

Though the site was slated for redevelopment, the restaurant employed 18 people at the time of the fire and destroyed “countless antiques and pieces of memorabilia inside.” [ref] Due to the future of the new restaurant is uncertain at this time.

More Information Including References

The complete RR-XING wiki article, along with all references, may be read on my RRWIKI. I had lost high resolution photos of the restaurant in a hard drive crash a previous summer and had planned on re-photographing downtown later this year. I will sadly miss the chance to photograph Carpenter’s again. To add insult to injury, I had typed an almost complete 2 page article similar to this one about Carpenter’s but it was lost to a neighborhood power failure around midnight the morning of this post (No, I had not saved my 2 hours of work). Luckily I still had my sources available (various historical newspaper clippings and IE even saved my browser sessions). I apologize for a few choppy paragraphs because of this late night re-work. I hope to edit the RRWIKI article as new information comes to light and to improve the writing style.

The loss of such a landmark and establishment is felt across Hugo and the surrounding area. My heart goes out to Cathy and Mike Anderson as well as the workers of Carpenter’s.

About Chad Leigh Kluck

Originally from Nebraska, I am a history and railroad enthusiast currently living near Saint Paul, Minnesota. I enjoy trains, photography, and nostalgic memories, as well as the history of transportation, agriculture, eateries, breweries, and railroad towns. More...

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