Lions Den building has long history of 144 years

By: 
Jordan Gerard

In addition to the colorful memories received last week, the Herald also received a list of the Lions Den building owners from the Houston County Historical Society records. 

The Lions Den building originally stood in what is now Viking Memorial Park and was built in 1875 (144 years old), according to Beacon Schneider Corp Geographical Information System. The historical society also has a photo from the church tower to prove it.

During that time, Rauk & Engell and Paulson & Reierson occupied it for a short time. Nels Onsgard and O.E. Kieland also occupied the building. It is unclear what was in the building at that time.

When the buildings were sold and torn down, Oscar Clauson purchased the Lions Den building and moved it across the street in between the current Corner Store and Alan Frydenlund’s building.

In the 1910s, the building played host to a clothing store owned by Oliver Onsgard in 1912, and then the Rex Movie Theatre with a pool hall in the basement owned by Oliver Ellingson and Oscar Clauson in 1917. 

Oliver Johnsrud and Teddy Scofield leased the theatre and ran their first show on a Tuesday evening in 1920. Clauson devoted his time to his bakery business along with his employee, Peter Jensen. Jensen bought out Clauson and moved the bakery to where “Hair Affair” is now located.

In June of 1920, there was a fire in the theatre after some films caught fire and were destroyed. Only slight damage was done to the building. Later that year, the theatre was leased by O.K. Omlie.

The 1920s era saw many different owners and purposes for the building. In 1921, it was remodeled into a grocery store and owned by O.E. Clauson and Gust Smerud.

A bowling alley in the basement was installed in 1924 and later that year, a clothing store. Both entities were run by Martin Langland.

In 1926, Otto Evenson rented the building and occupied it with a restaurant called the Park Café. That was eventually run by Langland as well in 1930.

The Depression Era records show the building was a post office in 1933 with Arnold Krogh as the postmaster.

In the late 1930s and 1940s, it was the Dvergsten Café. Into the ‘50s era, Jerry Joerg had a restaurant and bar in the building.

An advertisement from Jan. 17, 1952, reads, “Free Beer at Joerg Café on Thursday, January 24th from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Introducing our new kold [cold] draft beer dispensing system. America’s finest, serving beer at its best with the blend the brewery brewed it with. Taste the difference – You be the judge – Come and bring your friends – you are all invited – remember the time – Joerg Café – E.H. Buchheim, Prop.”

Heading into the 1960s, the Buxengard family owned it and ran a café there. In 1961, the building was Jim’s Café, which was owned by James and Francis Ramlo.

In 1969, Jerald Gulbro and David Engen held euchre tournaments at their café, called Dave and Jerry’s Café. Later that year, the building was purchased by Arnold “Arnie” Gaustad and named the “Lions Den.”

In 1972, an establishment called “Stan’s Pantry” was in the building, though the Herald could not find any more information about that particular piece of history.

Finally in 1976, Dennis Gaustad purchased the Lions Den from his brother, Arnie, and operated the bar until 1992.

It remained closed to the public for 27 years until the night of Aug. 23, 2019, when a throwback night was held for one night only.

Robin Bartell currently owns the building, according to Beacon records. 

Editor’s note: The historical society would like to note that if there are any corrections or additions to this information or there’s more information on a particular piece of history, they should let the Herald or historical society know.