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Frank Lloyd Wright hotel reopens in Iowa

Posted by Melanie Nayer  September 8, 2011 07:56 AM

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Frank Lloyd Wright's only remaining hotel re-opened in Mason City, Iowa, a little more a century after the iconic, and often controversial, architect designed it.

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The Historic Park Inn has been undergoing an 18-month, $18.5 million makeover to restore its 1910 appearance. To architects' delight, the demolition phase of the original structure uncovered unique surprises, originally created by Wright, including original spindles for the stairways that had been covered in layers of sheetrock, 100-year-old tile flooring and artifacts such as matchbooks from the early 1900s.

Wright designed the hotel and adjacent bank as additional revenue sources for law offices he was commissioned to design for two prominent Mason City attorneys. The bank and hotel buildings were designed in the Prairie School style, which is typified by flat roofs, large overhangs and geometric designs. The original hotel was described at its opening in 1910 as a model in cuisine and comfort.

When the hotel opened in 1910, the Mason City Globe Gazette reported "... all but one guest room facing the outside and featuring French windows, mahogany furniture, brass beds with box mattresses, and lavatories with hot and cold water."

The hotel was considered a marvel in modern architecture, but didn't last long. When the bank sold after a bankruptcy sale in 1926, the space was remodeled into commercial and retail space, drastically altering its original design, according to information from Wright on the Park, current owners of the property. The hotel went through various owners, at one point was converted into apartments, and was eventually abandoned, ending up on the top-10 list of most endangered historic properties in Iowa.

Today, the hotel is open, thanks to the efforts of the non-profit Wright on the Park Inc. foundation, which was created in 2002 and worked to raise funds to restore the legendary digs.

You won't have to share a bathroom or sitting room this time around thought. Should you visit, you'll find one of the guest rooms was restored to almost exactly its original place. The two-room “Historic Room” has a sleeping room with a brass bed and desk (a similar desk to the original one), a sitting area with a sofa, chair, and armoire, and a refrigerator, as well as storage space. The other 26 guest rooms take on a more modern approach, boasting wireless Internet (something that wasn't even dreamt of in 1910), as well as flat-screen TVs. Rooms start at $100 and go as high as $250.

Here's a video of the hotel and its restoration process, courtesy of Arian Schuessler for Wright on the Park, Inc.:

Historic Park Inn Media Kit from Arian Schuessler on Vimeo.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Melanie Nayer is a travel writer who spent many years in the newsroom before jetting off to see the world. Her goal is to bring readers the best insider information More »

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