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Columnist
Hotel Baker, Arcada Theater both going strong, and that's a good thing
By Dave Heun | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 1/27/2008 12:21 AM

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About 15 years ago, I was a member of the Hotel Baker Board of Governors. That was a fancy way of saying that local community leaders were advisers to the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois regarding the operation of the downtown St. Charles hotel, which at that time served as a senior living center.

As years passed, the hotel remained a hot topic of discussion when the Lutheran agency wanted to sell the building. It also was all the buzz through the years in which Ruby and Craig Frank purchased the hotel and kept it afloat through the late 1990s prior to a purchase by current owner Joe Salas.

St. Charles history books and newspaper archives tell us of the joyous days of the "Honeymoon Hotel" and its connection with the raucous Arcada Theater and Supper Club. Performers and visitors attending shows usually made the hotel their resting spot for days at a time.

Neither the hotel, nor the Arcada Theater, are talked about with concern or worry these days. And that is a good thing, as both entities have been revitalized and are looking to "connect" again in the near future.

New look at hotel

Hotel Baker manager Ginger Irps said the hotel, going into its fifth year since Salas bought the 1928 building, has enjoyed a solid business.

"We have been re-establishing good relationships with many companies in the area, and the hotel is used often for weddings and catered events," Irps said.

Current work inside the hotel will result in a new restaurant in the front of the building's west end, and the current Waterfront Restaurant area will be used as another banquet facility.

The hotel's popular Rainbow Room, the site of the St. Charles Heritage Center's gala dinner dance last weekend, and the Rose Garden will remain as they are, Irps added.

A marketing mix

Irps is excited about the prospect of marketing with the Arcada Theater and its owner Ron Onesti and manager Johnny Maggio in the near future.

It's apparent that Onesti Entertainment is trying a wide variety of entertainment forms to keep the community interested in the theater that has been part of downtown St. Charles since 1926.

"It's still an uphill climb for us," Maggio said. "But we want to provide something for everybody."

Maggio, who has displayed his own excellent crooning voice in a few of the Arcada shows, said he is looking forward to working with the hotel in some form in the spring.

Until then, he unfortunately will be slowed down a bit.

"I'm going in for a hip operation," Maggio said. "That's going to slow me down in February and March."

That gala event

And speaking of that St. Charles Heritage Center gala at the Hotel Baker last weekend, a highlight of the night (and reason behind the fund-raiser) was the announcement that the newly created endowment fund would be named after Max Hunt.

Hunt had nearly every honor the city of St. Charles can bestow upon a person before he passed away last April. But he had a special place in his heart for the city's history, as well as the Hotel Baker, of which he also served on its governing board.

About 200 people showed up for that event last weekend, and organizers of the event and creation of the endowment fund were hoping to raise $100,000 in Max Hunt's name.

Icy enough here

With the frigid temperatures here last week, Joe Gagnepain didn't need to travel to Italy to compete in an ice sculpture event. But he did -- as a member of the U.S. Team competing in the International Winter Snow Festivals.

His team placed first with a sculpture called "Fool of the World" at the festival in San Vigilio and second with a sculpture named "Mother of Invention" in the San Candido festival.

It's all a nice tune-up for Gagnepain, who plans to participate in the Geneva Snow Sculpting event Feb. 18 to 22. Gagnepain's murals and sculptures are quite familiar in the Tri-Cities area. His pirate ship on the front lawn of the Campana building, signaling the All Dressed Up shop locating there, was his most recent work to be in the news.

Gagnepain's artwork is on display at his Gallery of Fine Art at 505 N. Second St. in St. Charles.