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Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Rustic Manor

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)


Anonymous said...

My sister just forwarded this to me. My kids adored this place! So sad to have seen it closed down.

Unknown said...

I worked there as a teenager, started as a busboy, then dishwasher and up to frycook etc. great place, lots of memories!

Rich said...

I played in a very popular Country band in the 80's called BULLSEYE. We were contracted to play numerous times at the "Manor" we were booked for a month at a time .We had just finished our booking for the month in 87 that the fire started, lucky we had removed our equipment off that stage.

Anonymous said...

You can still get the Rustic Manor fish fry on Fridays at Doyles pub in Richmond Illinois as well as couple of other dishes that were on the menu.

vicki moats said...

My grand parents lived in Lake Bluff and worked at the Lake Bluff Children's Home. The kids got t go there once or twice a year. Whenever my grand parents had company they always took them here. I have so many great memories of this place. Nothing else ever compared!!

Linda A. said...

I have nothing but fond memories of the Rustic Manor. Always took out- of-town company there because the food was excellent and the atmosphere unique. Spent many holidays and family occasions there.
Still miss it!!!!!

Anonymous said...

My classmates and I discovered the Rustic Manor when we were in high school (late 1950's) and would go there after school dances and on special dates. It was quite a trip from the Skokie area (before the tollway system was built) but was worth the drive to impress that special someone.

Anonymous said...

My high school classmates and I discovered Rustic Manor once we learned how to drive (late 1950's) We used to go their after high school dances. I went there numerous times until it burned down. It was always a nice place to take that "special someone."

Anonymous said...

My mother worked there in the early 60's. She's 83 and still talks about it.

mary said...

I worked there in the 60s and we wore indian dresses as uniforms

Anonymous said...

I started going to the Rustic Manor with my family, when I was a little girl. My dad always bought me a little something in the gift shop. I went on a first date with the guy who became my husband. We now have been married for 50 years. You can be sure, if the restaurant were still there, we would be there on a regular basis.

bruce said...

My family would take my grandmother there to eat and that is where I took my first taste of lobster. This was back in the 60's and early 70's. To read about this place brings back some great memories. I would take my girlfriend there. It was a sad day when the flood came.

Anonymous said...

My aunt and uncle took my mom and me in the 60's and 70's. Uncle would always buy me a stuffed animal from the gift shop. Good memories. :-)

Richard said...

My family lived on the north side of Chicago in Albany Park in the 50's and 60's. From early on I can remember making the long drive north up 41 past all the roadside stands selling "Oleo". Part of the fun of going to the Rustic Manor as kids was exploring all around the restaurant. They used to have glass display cases with stuffed wildlife in humman type poses like fishing and playing cards. The floors were all flafstone and there were fireplaces throughout the restaurant. In front of the waterfall and mill wheel was a small pond with seating around it for the cocktail lounge. I really miss that restaurant. That kind of charm is hard to find these days.

Anonymous said...

Have no idea what made the Rustic Manor cross my mind today...but God bless the internet, i Googled and here's the whole story! This was our family's "special dinner out" place in the 50s and early 60s when I was a kid in Libertyville, Illinois, when that was just a very small town. My dad kiddingly referred to it as the "Rusty Manhole", but we all just loved it. I still remember the lobster tail with drawn butter (the treat to end all treats), and their wonderful hamburgers, which cost just 75 cents in those days. The decor was overwhelming in a wonderful way, and the whole place was truly unique. So sorry to hear about the flood and the fire...we left the area in 1963 but still remember the RM fondly. Thank you, Trybom family.

Unknown said...

My Grandparent took us here every year for our Birthdays. Loved it!!! Special memories for sure

Anonymous said...

Just going through an old box of stuff and found two Manor postcards, one of the inside waterfall you have posted, and one of an outdoor waterfall, concrete pond, and surrounded by concrete deer. Looks like a nice place to have gone to.

Anonymous said...

Mine too, what is your mom's name? Did she work in the kitchen or the dining room?

Unknown said...

As a child, I remember dining at the restaurant at least every month or more. My mother was quite the foodie and this was one of her favorite places! I would get dressed up on a Saturday night, and our whole family would set out for the Rustic Manor. I lived in Waukegan until age 5, then Arlington Heights until age 12. Going out to dinner at this fun but fancy restaurant has stuck with me my whole life. While driving through Gurnee, my dad would say, “don’t blink or you’ll miss it!” An old gray shack marked the spot ... then the beautiful Rustic Manor.

cosmoprimo said...

Two unusual times I dined at the Rustic Manor were after funerals, one of which was just a few months before the flooding. Also, I still have the Red Cake recipe that my mom saved from the News-Sun.

Todd Cushing said...

Fond memories of the Rustic Manor, sold background music to Marian Trybom in the late 60's. Eventually we auditioned with our band the Star Lights and played on and off for 6.5 years. We would bring out my family for dinner and brunch on Sundays up until the place burned down. Every Saturday night was always over a one hour waiting for a table. Mom and Pa Trybom worked so hard and brought many of the logs from the upper peninsula to create a true rustic feeling all good memories.

Dick Cushing