Remembering the Ryan Hotel: A personal note

The Star Tribune carries an interesting article by architecture critic and author Larry Millett on St. Paul’s long gone Ryan Hotel. The article runs under the headline “Lost Twin Cities: St. Paul’s Ryan Hotel was a Victorian masterpiece.”

I remember the hotel well. My family owned it for several years before it was torn down and the property turned into a parking lot in 1962. I spent happy time there with my dad and our cousins over breakfast at the Ryan on Sunday mornings when the hotel was on its last legs.

Millett doesn’t name my family, but he casually questions the veracity of their stated reason for tearing down the hotel: it was losing money. Millett writes: “By the mid 1950s, the hotel was a genteel but faded establishment, and its owners were losing money, or at least claimed they were.”

Now why do you suppose they would tear it down if it was making money? Millett doesn’t confide the answer.

As I say, my family owned the Ryan when it met the wrecking ball — my grandmother Toni Braverman (widow of my grandfather Paul Johnson) and my great uncles Yale and Harry Johnson. Turning to the family history written by Yale’s son Lynn Johnson and contributed to the Minnesota Historical Society, I see that Lynn included the St. Paul Pioneer Press article on the announcement that the Ryan was coming down. The Pioneer Press article states: “The hotel has been losing money for the last seven of the 11 years the current owners have had the property, Yale Johnson said.”

With nothing offered in the way of evidence, Millett seems to think there might be some reason to doubt Yale’s veracity. Although unintended in an otherwise informative article, this is a gratuitous insult to the memory of family members of whom we are proud and who are no longer around to speak up on their own behalf.


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