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No one would rent them a room. So they bought a hotel

Rochester Retro: Verne and Mary Manning

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Verne Manning

In 1944, Verne Manning and his wife, Mary, traveled from Seattle to get Mary care at Mayo Clinic. When they got here, the couple, who were Black, could not find a Rochester hotel to rent them a room.

Later that year, the Mannings, who owned a fountain drink and sandwich shop in Seattle, bought the former Northwestern Hotel at 301 North Broadway. They renamed it the Avalon Hotel. Built in 1919, it had housed visiting Jewish clients under the ownership of Sam and Lena Sternberg. The Avalon served clients without regard to race—the only hotel in town that did so.

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The Mannings were the first Black business owners and one of only six Black families in Rochester at the time. Exclusion of Blacks by all other hotels continued until it was legally prohibited in the mid-1950s, despite a 1947 Governor’s Interracial Commission of Minnesota that publicly described the policies of Rochester hotels as an embarrassment to the whole state.

During those years, Avalon hotel guests included Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, world boxing champ Henry Armstrong, and the Ink Spots.

Rochester Retro appears every month in Rochester Magazine.

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