Following the break up of the Icaria Colony in 1878, two new colonies were born. The original colony became known as the Young Icaria Colony and the New Icarian Colony was established about one mile southeast of the original site. The challenges that were faced by the break up were: first -- moving 8 houses, some sheds, and some barns (including the foundations of all these buildings), and secondly - the construction of a new refectory hall. In the spring of 1879, professional carpenters were called in to build the 50' x 30' dining hall on a limestone rock foundation. Since both the Young Icarians and the New Icarians were short of cash after the break up, New Icaria sold 112 acres of land for $1,800 and borrowed $2,500 for working capital to move the houses and to build the refectory. In addition, the Young Icarians were to pay the New Icarians a removal fee of $1,500.
The new refectory included a large dining hall and a small kitchen on the first floor with a full basement for food storage and wine cooling. The kitchen featured a big Charter Oak range "with an oven large enough to hold 28 pies" and one long table. The dining hall was stocked with one large cupboard, five round tables (that each seated 8-10 people) and chairs that were allotted from the original colony. A beautiful addition to the refectory was a grandfather clock that Hippolite Claudy brought from France. The decor of the dining hall was now complete.
By the fall of 1879, the refectry was completed in time for the traditional Fete Du Mais, Feast of the Corn, which served as an occasion to christen the new building. Friends and neighbors helped with the corn picking and a feast was prepared on the final evening of the harvest. After the meal, several toasts, and the christening ceremony, the tables were pushed aside and the first dance was held on the new floor.
That same fall, professional movers continued the process of moving the 8 frame houses to the new location. The houses were located east and west of the dining hall and then to the north on both sides in a rectangular formation. Water from the wells that were bored by the refectory and by the horse barn were good and plentiful. Inside the fence that enclosed the village, a large windbreak of maple trees was planted to the north and west of the dining hall to protect it from the prairie winds. The huge beds of flowers, asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb as well as the orchard which contained many varieties of fruit and berries and vineyards were established.
An Icarian's day began at 6 a.m. with a typical breakfast served in the Refectory that included vegetable soup, coffee with milk, butter or cheese and often eggs. Dinner was served at noon, usually a meat with one or two vegetables. In the summer, salad, cream cheese and often fruit, honey, molasses or preserves were part of this meal. In the evening there was soup, a serving of vegetables, stewed apples, jam, or during the summer cream cheese. Drinks were milk and water. Wine was served on days of celebration.
The refectory also served as a setting for musicals and theater productions. The following quote was inscribed on the theater curtains - "Theater Entertains, Instructs and Moralizes". All of the songs, poems or dramas presented on stage were submitted to a commission that carefully eliminated all that "could have a demoralizing influence".
The Icarians brought a library containing more than 2,000 volumes with them from Nauvoo. During the break up this library was divided in half. At New Icaria, the second floor of the refectory served as the print shop and the library. When the New Icaria Colony dissolved in 1898, Judge Horace Towner secured the Icarian Library. After his death, the library was given to Tabor College. When Tabor College was closed, the books went to the University of Nebraska, Omaha where today they are housed in the rare book room.
This building was used as a dining hall until the New Icarian Colony was dissolved in 1898. Shortly after the colony dissolved, Eugene F. and Leonie (Claudy) Bettannier remodeled it into a home for his family. It was sold to Samuel H. and Jennie (Clark) Bassett in 1903 and members of the Bassett family occupied this home until 1931. Other owners of this house were Walter and Alice Bickford, a McGregor family, Howard and Faye Townsend, and Dan Kretzinger.
On July 17, 2001, the building was moved from its original location to the current location and placed on a new foundation for restoration. The foundation that had supported this building for the first 123 years of its existence was made of limestone and was still in very good condition at the time of the move. As the movers raised this 75-ton building to transport it to this site, they realized that the weight of the building was unevenly distributed due to the heavy walnut and oak wood in parts of the house. After adjustments were made, the move was completed.