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Historic Park Inn Hotel
The Historic Park Inn showcases the trademark details of the only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel, one of six designed and five built. As a result, the halls ooze with history. These are the same halls where big band stars like Glenn Miller and Jack Jenney hurried from their rooms to join a jam session on the mezzanine—their music floating over the lobby and Skylight Room.
The original building had 43 ten-by-ten-foot rooms with shared bathrooms. Each room offered a bed, dresser, and sink. Today, the inn offers 27 unique rooms, each with a private bathroom. In addition, the rooms provide chairs or sofas and a work desk. I always appreciate having a desk in my room to complete some writing during the evening.
Today’s rooms have all the modern conveniences, complimentary high-speed internet access, wall-mounted large screen TVs with cable, a Keurig coffeemaker, and a wine refrigerator. If a family is sharing the room, you’ll want to bring a multi-plug outlet with USB ports for added convenience.
Since each room is unique, you’ll also find a variety of bathroom styles. My room was handicap accessible, so it featured a roll-in shower with no ledge to maneuver. Other bathrooms feature clawfoot bathtubs for those who enjoy old-world charm. The big excitement in our group was who would get Room 230, rumored to have the in-room hot tub. When booking your room, discuss your needs with the registration desk, and you’ll be sure to have the type of facilities you need. The bathrooms offer Roam bath products.
The Lobby of the Historic Park Inn
The hotel’s lobby features Wright’s compression and release design concept, meant to move people through the space to the places for visitors to congregate. Notice the front desk has lower ceilings or compression. This is because Wright designed it to make people uncomfortable and want to leave the area. The release areas are the two spaces before the front desk and the Skylight Room located past the glass doors behind the front desk, each area with high ceilings designed to give the feeling of release.
Skylight Room at the Historic Park Inn
Leaded stained glass was one signature element of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style designs, and you’ll find many examples of it throughout The Historic Park Inn. While stained-glass windows often tell a story, Wright’s leaded stained glass featured strips of continuous casement windows and doors. He used clear glass and then accented it with touches of autumnal color in abstract geometric shapes. Wright referred to the windows and doors as light screens.
One example is the Skylight Room’s 25 art glass panels. Like many original hotel details, during redesigns and decay, they lost the windows. Someone carried these beauties off to install in their home. When a local homeowner discovered the skylights fitted initially for the Park Inn Skylight Room ended up in his sunroom, he returned them. Today, they add original Frank Lloyd Wright details to the Skylight Room.
Ladies’ Parlor and Sample Room
Since Mason City is where people came for provisions, the Ladies’ Parlor functioned as a forerunner to today’s malls. Traveling salesmen set up and displayed their wares in the adjoining Sample Room.
The room features French doors leading to a recessed balcony overlooking Mason City’s Central Park, just the place to enjoy that morning cup of coffee or a cocktail in the evening. Recessed balconies were another Frank Lloyd Wright design characteristic on display at the Historic Park Inn. You can also view his signature cantilevered roof from the Ladies’ Parlor.
The Gentlemen’s Lounge and Billiards Room
The lower level, once known as the Gentlemen’s Lounge and Billiards room, is now the Draftsmen’s Lounge featuring live music and a bar with craft cocktails. Note the carpeting, in patterns traditional to Wright’s-stained glass. While the original hotel didn’t have it, today’s luxurious hotel features over a dozen designs.
The Law Offices
The second section of the three-part design is the law offices of Markley & Blythe. The law offices include a mahogany reception area, a law library, and the office of the central waist. Markley was a partner in South American mahogany industries, making the luxurious wood obtainable for the building project.
City National Bank
Finally, the last section is the City National Bank portion on the east end of the building, one of two remaining Wright-designed banks. Today, they use the area as the hotel ballroom and event center. Wright created the bank to have empty brick walls crowned with a bank of windows. Through this design, he intended to give customers a secure feeling while doing business with City National Bank.
In 1910, when the bank opened, four statues of Mercury, the Roman god of commerce, perched on top of the teller cages. Richard Brock, a sculptor of Midways Gardens fame and a colleague of Wright, created the statues. Today’s figures recast from the original, which they keep at the Mason City Library, and lights decorate the bank’s entrances.
On the outside of the bank, notice the tiles at the top of the columns. The tiles, known as Grueby Faience tiles, had a feature where they used the unglazed red-clay backs intermixed with the glazed surfaces to create a colorful pattern. Unfortunately, many of these tiles today aren’t original for several reasons. First, about 15 to 20 percent of the original tiles were damaged and needed replacing. Second, the tiles had faded after 100 years in the rough Iowa weather. So, before the restoration team discovered the Grueby origins, they decided to return the tiles to their original colors. Unfortunately, doing this required that they destroy the faience finish original glazing.
A glimpse of what’s in store when you spend a night at the Historic Park Inn. Check out this video on the Historic Park Inn.
Tours in and Around the Historic Park Inn
Take a 60-minute guided tour with more than 14 locations around the Historic Park Inn. Mason City is the place to explore if you’re an architecture buff. In addition to the Historic Park Inn and City National Bank tour, the Wright on the Park offers walking excursions of the Prairie School Architecture in the Rock Crest-Rock Glen Historic District. I recommend you make a reservation for these tours; however, they don’t require it.
If you enjoy sculptures in addition to architecture, take in the River City Sculptures on Parade, which are on display year-round. While taking a walking tour of the Rock Crest-Rock Glen area, you’ll also see some of the area’s sculptures.
Draftsman Lounge in the Historic Park Inn
The Draftsman Lounge, named with a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright, located in the Historic Park Inn’s lower level, features various stunning appetizers. While they offer a complete pub-style menu, where most selections are under $20, we sampled some of their tasty appetizers before heading to dinner.
In addition to a gorgeous charcuterie board, we had the short rib ravioli, and the Iowa cheese curds. The short rib ravioli featured braised Iowa beef short ribs, Parmesan, a mild pepper arrabiata, and herbs. The beer-battered cheese curds accompanied by comeback sauce were addicting. You can also order these appetizers in Markley & Blythe, the hotel’s restaurant.
The lounge is a fun place to spend some time. I love listening to live music and play pool. It kept us entertained during our visit.
Markley & Blythe, An American Tavern
Markley & Blythe, the restaurant inside the Historic Park Inn, features the bounty of Iowa’s agriculture. So that means you’ll find Iowa beef and pork on the menu. Rhubarb ketchup complements the local Iowa pork chop, accompanied by mashed potato confit, Brussel sprouts, and pickled red onion. If you prefer beef, try the Beef Wellington, an Iowa beef tenderloin with a mushroom duxelles, topped with prosciutto, puff pastry, and a whipped potato side. Beef jus accompanies the dish.
The chef serves these tasty meals in a dining room full of Frank Lloyd Wright details in the windows and light fixtures.
If you’re planning to explore Mason City, Iowa, you’ll want to stay at the Historic Park Inn Hotel. It makes the perfect base for exploring all that the city has to offer.
For more articles on Midwest travel from Follow the Piper, check out this link.
For more information on Iowa, check out “100 Things to Do in Iowa Before You Die.”
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