Nothing lets attendees live large like a stay in a historic, luxury hotel, and Iowa has plenty to choose from.
Iowans’ pride in their past shows in their tendency to preserve handsome old hotels or turn historic buildings into accommodations. From a downtown hotel designed by one of this country’s best-known architects to the recent and imaginative reworking of a mill in the Amana Colonies, these historic hotels wow with history, elegance and world-class amenities.
Historic Park Inn Hotel
An icon of American architecture was the mastermind behind the Historic Park Inn Hotel in northern Iowa’s Mason City.
“It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; construction was completed in 1910; and at the time it was built as a business and travel hotel,” said Lindsey James, executive director of the Mason City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There’s nothing like it.”
Architecture enthusiasts, especially fans of Wright’s work, will delight in this example of the famed architect’s Prairie Style. It’s the only hotel designed by Wright still in existence, and it underwent a $20 million restoration in 2011 to preserve signature stylistic elements, like its stained glass, horizontal lines, warm-toned wood and geometric shapes. No two of the hotel’s 27 guest rooms are alike.
The City National Bank building, another Mason City building designed by Wright, is now part of the hotel, and it makes a seamless transition as the hotel’s meeting space. The 2,400-square-foot ballroom, on the bank building’s main floor, can seat up to 150 for a banquet. The bank’s basement has additional meeting rooms, like the Blythe Room, for up to 50 theater-style. The hotel also has a skylight room, a lounge and several other spaces for small gatherings.
Its restaurant, Markley & Blythe, offers upscale Midwestern classics, from a 12-ounce ribeye to Iowa cheese curds, and does catering for all events.
In downtown Sioux City, two historic buildings have been meticulously restored and combined to create the Warrior Hotel, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection. The hotel opened in 2020.
“When you walk in it feels very classy, with marble, white, black and gold,” said Kristen Heimgartner, destination experience coordinator at Explore Sioux City. “They do have a rooftop bar, which is very popular as well.”
Developers spent $73 million to turn the original and long vacant Warrior Hotel and the adjacent Davidson Building, which was Sioux City’s first office building, into the new Warrior Hotel. While some historic details have been preserved, there are many new, luxurious features like chic dark walls, glossy marble and posh furniture in the 148-room hotel. Guests can enjoy a full-service spa, an indoor pool, city views from the Crown Rooftop Bar, and bowling and drinks in the War Eagle Lanes, a bowling alley and lounge on the hotel’s lower level.
The hotel’s 8,423 square feet of meeting space includes a nearly 4,000-square-foot ballroom bordered by a terrace and eight other meeting rooms on two levels. It also serves as a hotel for conventions at the Sioux City Convention Center, four blocks away.
Steaks and seafood share the spotlight at the Warrior’s restaurant, Woodbury’s: An American Steakhouse, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. A wide catering menu, from boxed lunches to multi-course plated dinners, is offered.
In the Amana Colonies, a former woolen mill has become a hotel and meeting venue. The Hotel Millwright opened in the fall of 2020, giving one of Iowa’s top tourist attractions a modern option for visitors and for conferences.
“It’s great for corporate retreats because there are a lot of activities for them to explore in the Amana Colonies,” said Keeley Degel, the hotel’s director of sales. “It’s definitely not your average banquet space.”
aesthetic is carried into each of the hotel’s 65 distinctly decorated guest rooms. With over 7,000 square feet of event space, the hotel’s largest venue is the Merino Loft on the second floor of the weaving building, which features exposed brick, hardwood floors and plenty of natural light. It accommodates up to 225 guests. Carding wheels hang overhead in the Carding Studio, the hotel’s other indoor meeting space, for up to 50 guests. The beer garden patio at the hotel bar, Electric Thread, can be booked for private parties. Indigo Room, the on-site restaurant, touts upscale fare in a casual setting. Catering is handled through the hotel’s kitchen, and audiovisual equipment is provided.
A few blocks from the Mississippi River in downtown Davenport, the Hotel Blackhawk, is “hip and historic in downtown Davenport,” said Joan Kranovich, vice president of business growth at Visit Quad Cities.
Built in 1915 and reopened after a $46 million renovation in 2010, the 130-room hotel is a member of the Marriott Autograph Collection and is considered “one of the best in Iowa,” said Kranovich.
Its architecture conveys class. Its lobby is crowned by a stained-glass skylight. Floors and columns are marble; there’s an abundance of arches. Some unexpected amenities are tucked inside: a bowling alley on the lower level, an indoor pool, a spa and a barbershop.
The hotel’s 10,000 square feet of meeting space is dominated by the Gold Room, a 3,300-square-foot ballroom with high ceilings, grand arches, shimmering chandeliers and gold accents. The Davenport Room, another elegant space off the Gold Room, can seat up to 200 banquet-style. Additional meeting rooms, private lounges and dining rooms, and the top floor’s Club Davenport add more options. The hotel is also attached to the RiverCenter, Davenport’s largest event venue. In addition to turning out meals for Bix Bistro and Rise Neighborhood Café, the hotel’s culinary team handles all event catering, from buffets to hors d’oeuvres.
The historic Hotel Julien Dubuque takes up a full city block on Dubuque’s Main Street. Originally constructed in 1915, the stately Beaux Arts-style red brick and limestone building reopened as a 133-room boutique hotel in 2009 after a restoration that uncovered the lobby’s marble tiles, reopened the atrium to the lobby below, added dark millwork, and uncovered crown molding, windows and high ceilings.
“It’s a very beautiful hotel; it was beautifully restored and is very appealing to the eye,” said Sonja Harris, sales director at Hotel Julien. “One thing that is very popular is the use of our ballroom and an atrium on the second level that looks down on the lobby.”
With 17-foot ceilings and deep crown molding, the polished Grande Ballroom can seat 215 banquet-style and 300 theater-style. The atrium often serves as pre-function space, ideal for registration and breaks. The Fleur de Lis, adjacent to the ballroom and atrium, seats up to 150 for a banquet. The hotel has a total of 15,000 square feet of meeting space, including conference rooms, a board room and a terrace that overlooks the Mississippi. For down time, there’s a lounge and a spa.
The hotel’s restaurant, Caroline’s, serves American classics with a twist, like a peppercorn filet and a bacon-wrapped Iowa pork tenderloin. The hotel consults with meeting planners on menus for their events.