1855-1955: The First 100 Years
The long, colorful history behind Dick’s Bar & Grill began back in the days when the St. Croix Landing and Toll Bridge, located where the dike exists today, conducted traffic on and across the St. Croix River. The bridge provided a steady flow of people and vehicles into Hudson. It was the original route connecting Wisconsin & Minnesota – an old-fashioned I-94 so to speak.
From 1853 to 1866, new buildings and businesses came to Hudson. One of those buildings was Hendee’s Hall. Built on the spot where Dicks Bar & Grill stands today. Hendee’s Hall was not only a meeting place for Hudson’s council members and militia, but it also served as a social gathering place.
In 1855 the most famous entertainers of the frontier, The Hutchinson Family Singers, performed at Hendee’s Hall. By 1860 Hendee’s Hall had evolved into a saloon owned by Frank Keep. Unfortunately Hendee’s Hall was burned to the ground in the fire of 1866. Frank Keep’s saloon was actually blamed for the cause of the fire which devastated most of Hudson.
In 1867 a new building and saloon called the St. Croix Tavern was created. This is the original building Dick’s Bar would share.
The famous Lucky Dog Llama story can be traced to this era. The northern area in the west bar is known as the Lucky Dog Llama Lounge. In the spring of 1877 a nameless fellow weary from travel stopped at the saloon, which Dick’s now occupies, with an unusual request. The river boat carrying his cargo – four Llamas – needed repairs. So the man was invited to sleep at the tavern with his Llamas out back. An unusual and rare sight, the Llamas, were the center of attention for the next couple of days, and people came from far and wide just to see them. B.A. Rice, the tavern owner, found himself to be one “Lucky Dog,” according to his friends because of the extra dollars the Llamas created for Mr. Rice.
Dick’s celebrated this story by naming our exclusive beer Lucky Dog Dark & Lucky Dog Red, and giving the Llama a spot on our shirts for good luck. For unknown reasons, B.A. Rice’s name was crossed off the tax assessment rolls as owner of the St. Croix tavern and L. Yoerg’s was written in. Louis Yoerg opened a brewery in 1870 and used the saloon to market his beer. J.A. Casanova bought Yoerg’s Brewery Saloon in 1896. He and others kept The St. Croix Tavern open through prohibition by serving “near beer” often spiced with pure alcohol sold by the local pharmacist.
Don Cameron and Wid Cramer became the next two subsequent owners of the saloon, each naming the bar after themselves. Their good friend Dick Brunelle purchased the saloon in 1955. Like his buddies, Dick named the bar after himself. Thus the name, Dick’s Bar.
Dick Brunelle’s ownership of Dick’s Bar was successful. It turned into a favorite hangout for locals and others to see friends, share stories and unwind from the daily grind. Dick’s wife, Mary Jane, put her mark on the establishment by serving her famous hot dago and meatball sandwiches. Times were good and Hudson was growing. Dick’s was a thriving place much like it had always been.
When the new bridge connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin was built in 1951, the toll bridge closed and business declined. The following of locals was too strong to have any long-lasting effects on Dick’s Bar. Dick Brunelle sold his bar in 1977. The bar retained its name, but downtown Hudson was losing some businesses to new developments by the freeway. Dick’s Bar remained where it was, and changed little except in ownership. Not until 1982 did a major transformation of Dick’s Bar take place when the run-down and tired building that had served so many before was purchased by Fred Kremer. With some restoration, and plenty of spirit, the bar was brought back to life and expanded.
In 1984 the two buildings east of Dicks were purchased and a kitchen and a grill were installed. Breakfast for $.99, Chicken-In- A-Hubcap, and $.99 Burgers were soon to be a part of Dick’s menu. Dick’s Bar became Dick’s Bar & Grill. In 1986 one more building was added. The fourth room, The Garden Room, had its roof removed and an open air eating area was created. This marks the last structural addition or change to Dick’s Bar & Grill. Fred Kremer’s vision had come to fruition, and in 1994 he invited his son, Paul Kremer, to join him in running the bar. Paul served faithfully with his father in the Dick’s Bar & Grill tradition for seven years until Fred’s death in 2001. The oldest continuously running Wisconsin saloon added another owner to its list. In December of 2014, Paul Kremer sold the business to long time employee Carol Raley. Carol and her staff plan to keep the tradition of Dick’s Bar & Grill alive and flourishing in Downtown Hudson on the beautiful St. Croix River. Stayed tuned...
And now you know that since 1860 there has been an established saloon, bar, pub or grill on the lot of where Dick’s Bar & Grill sits today. In the early years, city officials met with citizens to discuss ideas and plans and fine entertainers performed. Today, politicians and city organizations meet to discuss their ideas and plans, world famous entertainers perform, and friends and family come to meet, relax and have some fun. Dick’s Bar & Grill continues on much as it always has for over a century! SEE YOU SOON!!