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Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Rustic Manor

From 1947 to 1987, Victor and Marian Trybom operated the Rustic Manor Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge in Gurnee, Illinois to delighted patrons.

One of the earliest views of the Rustic Manor Restaurant shown on a postcard, 1950
Located at 4660 Grand Avenue, Gurnee, IL. Teich OCH1557

Detail of Rustic Manor sign from a retouched photo by the Curt Teich Company, 1950. Teich 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 Anton and Mary Kotarski.

Victor and Marian were married in August 1923. By 1930, they were living in Gurnee, Illinois with their children Marjorie and Marvin "Moe," along with Marian's brother and sister. They gave up work on the family farm to find new opportunities. Victor found steady work at the Pacific Steel Boiler Factory in Waukegan. 
Victor Trybom's World War II Registration Card showing his home address and occupation, 1942.

After working in factories for over a decade, the family did not want to continue with the unfulfilling and labor intensive work. As it happened, a property became available in Gurnee that was the answer to their dreams. 

In 1946, Warthen "Kelly" Kimball (1879-1963), the U.S. Postmaster of Gurnee had retired. In addition to his government job, Kimball and his wife Helen used part of their house to run a lunch room that sat 50 customers. They wanted to sell the property and move to Miami, Florida. 

In January 1947, the Tryboms purchased the property and shortly thereafter opened the Rustic Manor  in the former Kimball home on the northeast corner of Grand Avenue and Kilbourne Road. 

The Tryboms added 15 additions over the years to create a sprawling pine log frontier outpost-style structure that reflected the popularity of the American Frontier and Old West. During the late 1940s and beyond TV westerns and movies were hugely popular.

Postcard of the Rustic Manor showing its frontier outpost style, 1951. Teich Postcard 1CK1422

Rustic Manor entrance, 1965. Teich Postcard 5DK1527

The Tryboms' vision for their supper club had deep roots in their childhood memories of Iron River, Michigan. The "rustic" feeling of their restaurant evoked the frontier of the Upper Peninsula with its forests and black bears, and where it's believed they sourced the pine logs for the building. 

The western theme continued inside. The Rustic Manor was known for its taxidermy animal displays. In particular, there were mounted wall cases with chipmunks and gray squirrels in different scenarios, wearing clothes and playing cards. (I wish I had a photo of that!)

Black bear and racoon in tree beside a waterwheel and waterfall, 1959. Teich Postcard 9CK62

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. My family would toss a penny 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 created made you feel like you were on an adventure.

Postcard of dining room with moose head, circa 1955. Teich Postcard. 

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.

Rustic Manor menu cover with black bears, circa 1960. Art by Marian Trybom. Dunn Museum 2012.24.31

A page from the Rustic Manor's menu, 1968. Dunn Museum 2005.3.1

Rustic Manor drink menu, 1968. Dunn Museum 2005.3.1

In September 1986, the restaurant suffered severe damage when the Des Plaines River flooded. It was the worst flood in nearly three decades. The damage was so extensive in the region that Gov. Jim Thompson declared Gurnee and surrounding communities a state disaster area. 

The Trybom family rallied to clean and restore the restaurant. They re-opened on Christmas Day, 1986.

On the morning of January 9, 1987, disaster struck again when a fire gutted the restaurant.

Photo courtesy of the Gurnee Fire Department, 1987.

The fire was believed to have started in the barbeque pit from hot coals. Chief Dada of the Gurnee Fire Department was quoted in the Kenosha News that the fire caused "special problems because the restaurant had been expanded many times over the years and in some places had three roofs... [the] fire was traveling between the roofs making it extremely difficult to find." 

The back-to-back disasters were heartbreaking for the Trybom Family, the local community, and 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.
"Welcome to the Rustic Manor... Where Santa Claus arrives every Christmas with gifts for the Children." 1959. Longtime Gurnee residents, Alonzo and Cynthia Potter gave the family's sleigh to Marian Trybom to use in this display.
Teich Postcard 9CK61

In its 40 years of operation, the Rustic Manor became a landmark and the Tryboms' tradition of good food and hospitality never wavered. Now, decades since it closed, the sentimental longing remains for those lucky enough to have experienced the Rustic Manor.

Post updated 1/6/23

- Diana Dretske 

Bess Bower Dunn Museum, Archives, Libertyville, Illinois, 
Lake County, Illinois Maps Online 
"Happy New Year" advertisement, Kenosha Evening News, December 30, 1949. 
"For the Kids," Chicago Tribune, December 24, 1971. 
"Donors Mix Charity With Hearty Appetites," Chicago Tribune, October 10, 1982. 
"Cozy Inns That Will Warm Up Winter," Chicago Tribune, December 16, 1983. 
"Worst Flooding in 26 Years Hits Suburbs," Chicago Tribune, September 30, 1986. 
"Fire Guts Rustic Manor Restaurant," Kenosha News, January 9, 1987. 
"Family Restaurant Brings Back Memories," Lake County Journal, October 29, 2015
Warren Township Historical Society, Images of America: Gurnee and Warren Township. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2006. 


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

Anonymous said...

I worked there when I was a high school kid in the very early 70s.
I remember Mama and Papa Trybom. Her and her squirrel, and him and his German Shepard.
The good old days.

Doris said...

Hi, my husband an I took our mothers there for Mother’s Day, the year before we married. It was a way to introduce them to each other. They liked each other right away, they were friends from that day on. We loved going there for special occasions, until we moved from the Waukegan area. Thanks so much for bringing back great memories. The year we had that special dinner with our moms was1971.

Anonymous said...

I'm feeling nostalgia for the good old days when we drove from Evanston to Gurnee to one of our favorite restaurants. I called it the Rustic Mill since I was so fascinated by the mill wheel. Such a treat to throw pennies into the pond to pass the time waiting for a table. I really miss the restaurant for its ambience and good food!

DJ Taylor said...

I have pictures of my grandparents in front of the entrance. It has "The Rustic Manor" in large letters over the entrance walkway. I remember my relatives talking about summers at the lake. The pictures are from July 1969.

Unknown said...

Like everyone else, my siblings and I have fond memories with our parents and grandparents at the Rustic Manor. We were so excited to make a wish in the fountain and order our NA Shirley temple. I was very young but recall a gift shop area as you enter/leave. Was very young and just remember how special it was to spend time with my grandparents and famy. Thank you for this website and sharing pictures that are very familiar. If anyone knows of a location/museum with more historical pictures, memorabilia or information, please share. God bless.

Ben said...

Loved their hush puppies. Strangely no one else in my family remembers them.

Linda Clark-Borre said...

Didn’t this place have a large tree growing inside of it? Goodness I remember being in awe of everything about Rustic Manor as a child.

Diana Dretske said...

Hi Linda Clark-Borre,

I believe all the trees inside the Rustic Manor were manufactured and not real. You may be remembering the "oak" tree in the display with Santa Claus. There were also birch trees and pine trees.

Thank you!


Unknown said...

My sister are dinning out eating fried shrimp and it brought back fond memories of the Rustic Manner. We would go there as children on Christmas Eve, something we looked forward to during the Holidays.

Anonymous said...

When my then boyfriend now husband and I would go fishing in Channel Lakes in Antioch we would always stop at the Rustic Manor on the way home and order their ribs. They were fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have the recipe for their BBQ sauce??

Unknown said...

I remember going to this place back in the 60s. I had to be about 8 or 9. It was my father's favorite place to take us to a family dinner. I loved the decorations of the old west. I especially remember the big tree in the center of the place. I miss it and if it were still around today, I would travel to have a good steak.

Unknown said...

My girlfriends parents took me on visits to their cottage in Antioch, IL. It sat across street from Lake Marie... Each time we went.. we stopped at The Rustic Manor for dinner... from 6th grade til 8th. A very fond memory..

Anonymous said...

My wife and I were married there in 1976. They did a super job making it festive. My sister was married there in 1972.

Anonymous said...

Such memories! This is where my now husband of almost 57 years proposed! It always meant so much to go back there!

Anonymous said...

I grew up coming here: first with my family, then with my boyfriend and his family. The waterfall and tossed pennies, the dancing on Saturday night, and always the ending of my Dad buying me a stuffed toy at check out. What a wonderful memory this place holds! I loved Rustic Manor!!