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April 19: The Custer Hotel

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On this date in 1879, in a Bismarck Tribune ad, the Custer Hotel boasted first class accommodations for reasonable prices. The hotel targeted river men, railroad men, miners, and army people, based on a convenient location.

Two years earlier, the newspaper had described the hotel in detail. According to the Tribune, the hotel was a three-story house that contained twenty-four sleeping rooms, some of them large double rooms capable of accommodating many guests. The article praised the hotel for its well-furnished bedrooms decorated with new furniture and carpets. The dining room was described as “one of the most pleasant rooms in the city and is splendidly lighted.”

The hotel seemed to have great importance for the community. The hotel was reported as the first prominent building when coming into Bismarck from the east, with excellence only surpassed by the Sheridan hotel. Both hotels were described in the Chicago Times as carrying on a thriving trade that added to “Bismarck’s greatness.”

Other businesses apparently benefited from the hotel’s success and location. Businesses like the 5th Street Bakery and the Carpenter and Builder shop used the hotel as a point of reference in their ads to help people find their locations.

Even the guest book for the Custer Hotel supported this communal aspect of the hotel and the surrounding businesses. As guests signed in, the opposite page advertised various area business for visitors to enjoy during their stay. The guests could take advantage of tailoring services, clothing stores, shoe stores, grocery stores, banking, livery, real estate, and many of the other businesses found in the growing city.

The guest book also noted how the guest had traveled, an interesting detail that helps create a picture of the community during those early years.

Dakota Datebook by Olivia Burmeister


  • Bismarck Tribune. [volume], April 19, 1879. Image 2
  • Bismarck Tri-Weekly Tribune. [volume], October 22, 1877. Image 2
  • North Dakota State Archives Collections, Custer Hotel Guest Register, 1892-1893. MSS 10220 Volume 1

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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