From 1947 to 1986, Victor and Marian Trybom operated the Rustic Manor Restaurant in Gurnee to delighted patrons.
One of the earliest views of the Rustic Manor Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge shown on a postcard, 1950. (Teich OCH1557)
Detail of Rustic Manor sign from a retouched photo by the Curt Teich Company, 1950. (Teich Job File OCH1557)
Victor Trybom (1895-1981) was born in Michigan to Swedish immigrants and farmers, Olaf and Sara Trybom. Marian Trybom (1903-1991) was born to Polish immigrants Antone and Mary Kotarski.
Victor and Marian were married circa 1923. By 1930, they were living in Gurnee, Illinois with their children Marjorie and Marvin "Moe." They gave up work on the family farm to find new opportunities.
By 1947, the Tryboms had opened the Rustic Manor on the northeast corner of Grand Avenue and Kilbourne Road in a house on the property. (Though most accounts give the 1947 date, the Village of Gurnee's website states the Tryboms were issued a liquor license in June 1945, and that was the start of the business).
The Tryboms added additions to create a sprawling log-style structure that reflected the popularity of the American Old West. During the 1950s and 1960s TV westerns and movies were hugely popular.
Postcard of the Rustic Manor showing its frontier fort style, 1951. (Teich 1CK1422)
Rustic Manor entrance, 1965. Curt Teich Company postcard. (Teich 5DK1527)
The western theme continued inside. The Rustic Manor was known for its taxidermy animal displays. In particular, there were mounted wall cases with gray squirrels in different scenarios, wearing clothes. (I wish I had a photo of that!)
One of the first things you encountered on entering the restaurant was the waterfall (above) that was so loud you couldn't stand next to it and talk. We would toss a coin or two into the pool, and then step aside to wait to be seated. Even though the sound of the water was overpowering, the environment this scene created made you feel like you were on an adventure. Teich postcard, 1959. (Teich 9CK62)
Postcard view of one of the dining rooms at the Rustic Manor, 1955. (Teich 5CK2346)
I often went to the Rustic Manor with my grandfather, who was especially fond of ordering the "Poor Man's Lobster." This was broiled white fish that came with hot melted butter served over a lighted candle. As a ten-year old, I thought that was fancy eating.
Menu cover from the Rustic Manor, circa 1960. (BBDM 2012.24.31)
A page from the Rustic Manor's menu, 1968. (BBDM 2005.3.1)
Rustic Manor drink menu, 1968. (BBDM 2005.3.1)
In 1986, the restaurant suffered severe damage when the Des Plaines River flooded. On January 8, 1987, shortly after completing renovations from the flood, a terrible fire broke out.
The fire was believed to have started in the barbeque pit from hot coals. (Photo courtesy of the Gurnee Fire Department.)
The back-to-back disasters were heartbreaking for the Trybom family and the restaurant's loyal customers. Initially, rebuilding was not allowed, because the property was located on a designated floodway. Through the State of Illinois, the designation was changed to “floodplain” to allow for the building project. However, the costs of a new building quickly dimmed that possibility, and the building was razed and the land sold.
Eventually the property was donated to the Village of Gurnee and dedicated as the Esper A. Petersen Foundation Park.
Twenty-five years later, the Rustic Manor and all its quirky charm are still missed by the community.
Santa and his sleigh and reindeer, 1959. Curt Teich postcard. (Teich 9CK61)