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Giant City Lodge has a unique history | Lifestyle

Makanda — The majestic Giant City Lodge is at the top of Giant City State Park, but the park and lodge have their own history.



From left to right, Mike’s third generation of the Kelly family, Richard and Mikey are involved in managing the Giant City Lodge in Giant City State Park. Kelly’s has managed the lodge since 1981.


Byron Hetzler



Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC, one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s programs, was launched in 1933 and enrolled young men to work on outdoor projects and improvements. Three CCC units have been assigned to Giant City State Park.

The 696 companies, which have about 200 men, stayed in the park from 1933 to 1942. The 1657 company assisted in 1934 for five months. Under the supervision of the National Park Service, CCC has embarked on projects such as road construction, landscaping, sidewalks and guardrails. And general forestry improvements.



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The Giant City Lodge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and has been managed by the Kelly family since 1981.


Byron Hetzler



In June 1934, Company 696 began work on Project 28 C, Giant City Lodge and Cabins. Shortly after construction began, it became clear that multiple male companies were needed, so the 692 companies came to Giant City from August 1934 to November 1935.

The focus of the project was that it reflected the local atmosphere and decoration, and much of the material that entered the lodge was locally obtained.

The foundation was laid out in concrete. To emphasize the local atmosphere, the walls of the lodge were made of locally quarried sandstone. Hardwoods in Illinois were used for woodworking in and at lodges such as white oak, pecan nuts, and single oak. The blacksmith at the site did all the ironwork.

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This lodge was dedicated on August 30, 1936. The Chicago Tribune states that Illinois Governor Henry Horner said: I dedicate it for that purpose. “



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We are ready to serve chicken dinner at Giant City Lodge in June.


Byron Hetzler



For other projects, we added six more night cabins to accommodate the growing number of guests and increased the total number of cabins to 12 in August 1937. There was no running water in these cabins. They were equipped with furniture built by CCC.

CCC was asked to make 80 additional pieces of furniture for the lodge’s lounge area. Made from local white oak and maple, this piece of furniture remains in the lounge area today.

The dining service court, made of natural sandstone with white oak pin rails and gates, was completed on November 30, 1938. On March 31, 1939, a shop was completed in the lodge building. It featured a dime of Coca-Cola and a nickel cone of 5 cents.



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Kimberly Grave applies bread crumbs to some chickens for ordering at the Giant City Lodge in June.


Byron Hetzler



The 696th CCC company was dissolved on May 28, 1942.

The project, which was started by the 696th company before the dissolution but did not finish, was completed by permanent park staff and the Works Progress Administration.

At the beginning of 1946, work on the existing cabin began, including plastering of the inner walls and the addition of plumbing and electricity.

The growth of the dining room business created the need to add yet another dining room in 1958. This became known as the Bold Nobroom. In 1969, another dining room was added, named the Seaney Room.

The biggest improvement in the lodge since its construction was under Governor James Thompson’s Illinois Construction Program, which began in 1985, more than 50 years after the CCC was commissioned.

“State representative Bob Winchester proposed to add a soda tax, and the money was sent to the Conservation Department (now the Illinois Natural Resources Department),” said Richard Kelly.

The new program removed 12 original night cabins and built 12 new cabins on the same site. These 12 new cabins are now known as “historic” cabins. Another 22 new cabins were built around the lodge along with an outdoor swimming pool.



Jim Thompson

Governor Jim Thompson of Giant City State Park Lodge in Carbondale.


Southern file photo


The lodge has been refurbished with new infrastructure throughout, including a new Bald Knob dining and banquet room. With this addition, the total number of seats in the dining room has doubled to about 400. This addition was designed to maintain its historic beauty in the spirit of the park.

Richard A. Kelly and his 19-year-old son Mike became the lodge’s sixth concessionaire, introducing a new era of management and hospitality in the 1980s.

Richard Kelly was a confused sergeant in the Army and was around food for the rest of his life. Applying for a license to run the lodge seemed natural to him.

“We did a lot of cleaning and removed some screens from the windows to brighten the place. It opened on March 1, 1981,” said Mike Kelley, who shined it. He added that he made the lodge more welcoming to visitors by turning on more lights and making it more welcoming.

Mike and Richard Kelly have been at the lodge almost every day since they opened.

“Dad was a positive idea. After being overwhelmed by Sunday lunch for two weeks, he decided we had a chicken dinner,” Mike Kelley said.

The decision allowed the lodge to serve more people every Sunday. Even today, the lodge’s famous family-style fried chicken dinner is a Sunday lunch menu.

However, Mike wanted to make it clear that fried chicken dinner was available for lunch and dinner daily at the lodge. You can order the menu throughout the week, but fried chicken is definitely my favorite.

The Kelly Family does not own a lodge. Illinois State Park facility. Ownership aside, it’s the Kelly Family business.

“The whole family has worked in the lodge. They usually start table hosting or bus and graduate to the waiting table. Mikey (Mike’s son) joined us a few years after graduating from college. “Mike Kelley said. “My brother-in-law, Jim Bougiotis, joined us many years ago. He certainly plays a big role in the business.”

For members of the Kelly Family, working at a lodge is a rite of passage. Mikey Kelly started helping set and clear the table when he was in the third grade on a busy Sunday. Of course, that meant getting some money to work from his grandpa.

“That’s right. For my family, I work at a lodge,” Mikey Kelly said.

He said he couldn’t miss the opportunity to work with his family, his parents, grandparents and his uncle.

“We’re all doing pretty well,” said Mikey Kelly.

Every Sunday you will find Mike, Mikey Kelly and Jim Bugiotis working hard at the lodge. Kay Kelly is usually at the hostess stand and Richard is in his office right next to the dining room.

He creates invoices and pays them

Richard Kelly still keeps a daily handwritten tally of his business in his ledger, as his father taught him to do with Kelly’s big star. Bookkeeping is computerized, but he takes a computer printout and adds a number to the book.

“I brought my dad’s habits into the lodge’s business,” said Richard Kelly.

They line up on the bookshelf behind his desk with one of his dad’s ledgers.

They joking that Mike Kelly will invoice and Richard Kelly will pay them.

Mike Kelley, in addition to his family, said they were lucky and have been blessed with excellent staff, especially at COVID-19 for the past year and a half.

The wall tells the visitor how popular the fried chicken is. There are photos of Giant City State Park, articles in newspapers and magazines celebrating visiting celebrities, politicians and families, and Giant City Lodge.

“41 years have passed and now a family of three generations runs the lodge,” said Mike Kelley. “We may be a little Mayberry, but it works.”

“I’m very fortunate,” said Richard Kelly.

Giant City Lodge has a unique history | Lifestyle

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