Nothing against contemporary hotels, because there’s something comfortable about knowing that your stay in Des Moines will likely be similar to your stay in Keokuk. But, does anything beat a stay in one of Iowa’s historic hotels? From Hotel Winneshiek in Decorah to the Decker House Hotel in Maquoketa, the decor and ambience of a vintage hotel creates a special experience you’ll never have at another hotel.
Here’s a look at some of Iowa’s beautiful and historic hotels.
A vintage hotel, the Hotel Ottumwa is located in a century-old brick building in the heart of downtown Ottumwa. With well-appointed rooms and suites, the hotel mixes contemporary comfort with old-fashioned decor.
Whether you prefer a standard room or a two-room suite, the Hotel Ottumwa features classic designs and accessories. You’ll feel like you stepped back in time in a hotel that opened in 1917. After closing in the early 1970s, the building was resurrected in 1982 and renovated to modern times, while maintaining its early 20th century feel.
While at the hotel, enjoy breakfast or lunch at the Second Street Cafe, which offers the vibe of an old-fashioned diner. Grab a cocktail the Tom-Tom Tap, a throwback to hotel bars of yesteryear.
Tip: One of the state’s best pork tenderloin sandwiches is served at Canteen Lunch in the Alley in Ottumwa.
Hotel Julien Dubuque
Lay your head in the same hotel where Buffalo Bill Cody and President Abraham Lincoln slept. Al Capone was known to hang out at the Hotel Julien Dubuque. Almost 200 years old, the Hotel Julien originally opened in 1839, long before most of the states west of the Mississippi River joined the union.
As its name indicates, the Hotel Julien oozes elegance, with dark wood finishes, plush seating in the lobby, and classic architecture. The downtown hotel features modern technology and design in its rooms and suites, but with the feel of classic lodging. Enjoy a cup of coffee and an old-fashioned Midwestern breakfast at Caroline’s.
It may not look the same as it did when opening in 1915, but the Blackhawk Hotel in Davenport maintains its longstanding reputation as the Quad Cities‘ upscale accommodation. As part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, the Blackhawk Hotel offers the perks of a contemporary facility, but maintains its connection to the past with vintage decor and ambience.
Within walking distance to the Figge Art Museum, the Blackhawk Hotel hugs the Mississippi River, with easy access to walking paths that lead to a bevy of excellent views and outstanding attractions.
Offering a cozy stay, the Decker Hotel features 17 uniquely-designed rooms. Built in 1856 by a New Yorker, the Decker House Hotel provided an upscale stay in the rugged west, with guests including Ulysses S. Grant.
Today, you can still enjoy a comfortable stay, without worrying about the rugged part unless you prefer exploring nature. Located about 30 minutes south of Dubuque, the Decker House Hotel is located in a classically-designed brick building, which in 1875 replaced the original wood frame house.
With a name change following its sale a few years ago, the Decker Hotel features stained wood and vintage decor, giving a nod to its history. An in-house restaurant – 7 Horses – serves outstanding breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, including homestyle dishes.
Where: Sioux City
For more than 90 years, the elegant hotel has been a staple in downtown Sioux City. With the vintage Orpheum Theatre nearby, the hotel is a throwback to the area’s history. With its art deco design, The Warrior Hotel wows guests with classic decor and its grand staircase.
As part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, The Warrior provides a comfortable, upscale hotel experience with lush bedding and modern amenities. Enjoy a special dining experience at Woodbury’s, followed by evening drinks at The Crown, Sioux City’s best rooftop club.
Historic Park Inn
Where: Mason City
Internationally-known, the Historic Park Inn hotel in downtown Mason City is the lone remaining hotel designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Built by local business leaders with the thought that Mason City could be a destination for Chicagoans looking to get away for a few days, the hotel was thought to offer an upscale, relaxing experience.
Following a renovation a couple of decades ago, the Historic Park Inn, today, offers a comfortable stay with a nod to its history, including some original woodwork and glass. Take a self-guided tour of the hotel to gain a true sense of its historical significance and the brilliant work of Wright.
The city is home to incredible public art, including murals paying homage to Frank Lloyd Wright and a series of sculptures. The Stockman House was a second structure in town designed by Wright. Explore a neighborhood where several houses resemble Wright’s Prairie School style of sloping roofs, wide frames, and more.
Stepping into the lobby of the Hotel Greenfield in southwest Iowa, you may think you’ve entered a time tunnel, as the lobby is almost exactly as it was when the hotel opened in 1920. Its tiles, front desk, woodwork, and staircase, as well as pocket doors, are all original to the building.
The hotel originally had 15 rooms, with a shared bath. Constructed in 1919, the 20 rooms at the Greenfield hotel are home to modern conveniences and comfort, including two accessible rooms.
Enjoy a drink at the hotel’s lobby bar. While in Greenfield, head to the original Freedom Rock, created by local artist Bubba Sorensen II as a tribute to the men and women who have served the United States during wartime.
A stay at the Hotel Pattee in Perry is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. With specially-themed rooms, you may find yourself sleeping in the Band Room, complete with a headboard made from musical instruments. How about the more-subtle Cream ’n’ Eggs Room, which replicates the home of a farm woman, whose day began chores, such as gathering up the daily eggs laid overnight, and just building on from there?
Whatever your interests, you’ll find a themed room that will leave you wanting to come back for another stay.
Tip: I combine a stay at Hotel Pattee with outdoor activities in nearby Boone.
A Marshalltown staple since 1874, The Tremont was originally a three-floor walk-up hotel. However, the hotel was destroyed in a fire in the early 20th century. It was rebuilt in 1904. Today, the boutique hotel, about an hour northeast of Des Moines, offers an intimate stay with contemporary comforts, allowing for a European-style experience.
In the middle of Iowa’s Norwegian capital, the Hotel Winneshiek is a beautiful building, offering a look into the area’s history. Built in 1905, it resonates elegance, embracing its history as the city’s hospitality anchor. Each floor features historical exhibits, such as an organ and paintings.
Located next door to the Steyer Opera House, guests could easily move between the two historical giants. Rooms and suites are exquisitely attired, with modern comforts, but maintain a feel of the hotel’s early days. Dark woods are prevalent in the hotel, and the lobby is an impressive view.
Outside the hotel, you’ll step on to the historic main street, with 19th-century buildings. The Vesterheim Museum, with its living history town, showcases the area’s Scandinavian ancestry.
Whether it’s in a city or located in a small town, history is embraced and shared at any of Iowa’s historic hotels. From boutique style to renovated warehouses, and more, you’ll enjoy a comfortable stay, and may just learn a few things, during your visit.