By Aaron Brom
The Hanover Hilltop Bar, a legendary stop on Hennepin County Rd. 19 that boasts even more legendary guests, has suddenly closed its doors.
A note was stamped into the front door Tuesday morning, Sept. 12, that said “Hilltop closed permanently after today.”
And just like that the bar that started as a hotel in the 19th Century has closed its doors, and the city of Hanover says it does not know what’s next for the site.
“It’s been a staple of Hanover, it’s one of the big things our city is known for,” City Administrator Brian Hagen said. “We don’t know any of the details. The owner has not contacted us.”
The Minnesota Security of State’s website indicates that the Hilltop was first registered in 1992, that Dean Dougherty is the CEO, and that it’s status is “inactive.”
The Hilltop counted Minnesota’s legendary Nobel Prize winning, Minnesota native song-writer Bob Dylan as a frequent guest.
Dylan and his brother own a huge property just down the road from Hilltop.
Though the fact that Dylan was a Hilltop regular has been kept “secret” over the years, word had spread. One legendary tale has it that Dylan brought friend Willie Nelson to the Hilltop, but before appearing, had a staff member request each guest to “hand over” their phone or leave the premises. Word had it that the famously shy and press-wary Dylan wanted to make sure no one was secretly snapping photos of him or Nelson.
The Hilltop itself was featured in a Hollywood film just six years ago. “Thin Ice,” starring Greg Kinnear, filmed a scene at the Hilltop, which had its sign out front changed to “Big Dick’s Bar” for the film.
Thin Ice also had other scenes shot in Hanover, including at the Hanover Athletic Association’s ice warming house near City Hall.
Author Mary Coons of the Hanover Historical Society, who chronicled Hanover’s history in a book, indicated that August Vollbrecht built the former Greenwood House in the late 1800s as a hotel and general store.
Soon after, the Dorns operated it as a saloon — with a dance hall upstairs — and a general store. Gustave Dorn, born in 1895 and a son of the Greenwood House proprietor, submitted a letter to the editor of the Crow River News in 1982 citing his father’s business. Eighty-six years old at the time, he recalled some stories circa 1905-06: “We had the first ice cream cones to be served in Hanover. I believe one lad ate 19 in a day and was sick for a week.”
Gustave, who was 10 years old when his father ran the store, wrote, “Drinking seemed to be the main past time. One day a farm woman came into our saloon with a shotgun. She told my father she would kill him if he sold her husband another drink. Pa too the cue and we moved to Buffalo shortly thereafter.”
John Lockedell established his dry good store in 1907 in the same building. The store was lauded as one of the finest general merchandise establishments in Wright County, although the property is located in Hennepin County. In addition to dry goods, Lockedell sold groceries, boots, shoes, crockery, glassware and tinware.
At one point, Gluek Brewing Co. also owned the property. The portion of the original structure that housed the hotel has since been razed.
Hilltop Bar is the former storefront.