Maxson's closes its doors, but owners hope closure won't be permanent

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 12:25 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 12:18 p.m. CDT
Caption
Maxson's Riverside Restaurant and Pride of Oregon paddlewheel boat closed Oct. 31. Photo by Earleen Hinton

The last customer is gone and the lights are shut off at one of Oregon's landmark restaurants, but the situation may not be permanent.

After serving lunch Oct. 31, Maxson's Riverside Restaurant closed its doors. The restaurant, which includes the Pride of Oregon Riverboat, had been in business for more than 60 years under four owners.

However, owner Rich Wiesner said he's holding out hope that the well-known eatery, with its unparalleled view of the Rock River and Black Hawk Statue, may re-open.

Once the word got out in the local newspaper about the closing, Wiesner said he had a potential buyer.

"He's been to see me three times in the last month," Wiesner said.

In the year the restaurant had been on the market, he said no one had shown interest.

"The real estate people didn't find anybody, and the newspapers did," Wiesner said with a wry chuckle.

The last customer left just after 2 p.m. Oct. 31. Business was brisk in the last few days before the closing, he said.

"The outpouring from the community has been unreal since word got out," Wiesner said.

When he announced the closing in early October, Wiesner, 66, said he was ready to retire.

As the restaurant's fourth owner, Wiesner has owned and operated it since mid-September of 1992 when he purchased it from the heirs of Rose Jones.

He has owned it for the second longest period of time, after original owner John Maxson and his family who opened the restaurant in 1952 and operated it until they sold it to John and Peter Tsioles in 1978.

Jones purchased the restaurant from the Tsioles brothers in 1985. She added the riverboat, originally called the Rose of the Rock four years later.

The paddle wheeler was built in Palatka, Fla. It was launched on the St. John's River and sailed into the Gulf of Mexico, to Mobile, Ala., on its month-long trip to Oregon.

Its route took it up the Mobile River to the Tennesee-Tombigbee Waterway, then on the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, and finally up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to Ottawa, where it was dismantled and bought overland by semi tractor-trailers to Oregon.

The northbound lane of Interstate 39 was closed to traffic to allow the riverboat to be transported to Ill. 64, which was completely closed while the semis made their way to the boat launch on River Road.

Once at Oregon, the vessel was reassembled and made its maiden voyage on the Rock River on Sept. 9, 1989.

A fire destroyed the original restaurant building on March 27, 1993, but it was rebuilt and reopened in the summer of 1994.

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