The Story Behind the Plane at the Don Q Inn Hotel in Wisconsin
The retired military cargo carrier was featured in car commercials with Farrah Fawcett in the 1970s before it came to rest at the Don Q Inn.
In the rolling green hills of rural Dodgeville, Wisconsin, just minutes from the House on the Rock and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin estate, is a another roadside wonder built by an equally eccentric Wisconsinite: Don Quinn’s Don Q Inn. While the hotel boasts numerous oddities, including themed rooms where you can spend the night in a cave, on the moon, or in a hot air balloon, not to mention there’s a fireplace made from a vintage steam engine and 300-gallon copper cheese vats for bathtubs, it could almost pass for normal from the outside…if it wasn’t for the attached church steeple repurposed as a honeymoon suite.
There’s also a massive plane parked on the front lawn.
It is an ex-military Boeing C-97G Stratofreighter built sometime between 1944 and 1952. With a wingspan of 141 feet and four 3,500-horsepower engines, the C-97 was once the largest thing in the skies.
Quinn was a commercial pilot known to land a DC-9 in his unpaved backyard landing strip, parking it “outside his house the way you’d park your company car in the driveway.” He purchased the retired C-97 in 1978, planning to attach it to the hotel and convert it into a coffee shop. Several years earlier, it had been used to film car commercials starring actress Farrah Fawcett and a live cougar for the Lincoln Mercury Cougar XR-7. Farrah autographed the fuselage, though it has since been painted over.
After surveying the now-defunct Dodgeville Municipal Airport to make sure the plane would fit, it was flown in by pilot Dick Schmidt, copilot Tom Thomas, and flight engineer Harold Waligorski. Quinn didn’t miss the opportunity to crack a joke about Tom, Dick, and Harry.
The plan was to buy other smaller aircraft and turn them into rooms for adventurous hotel guests, but today the C-97 stands alone.
It is open to explore daily.
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