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Historic Park Inn Hotel in Mason City, Iowa

SEPTEMBER 2014

I don’t write well enough to accurately describe my enthusiasm for the Historic Park Inn Hotel, and I am not sure I ever will. I will try to resist the temptation to put three of four exclamation points after every sentence to convey my excitement over this gem.

On the morning of Friday, September 19th, I was awakened by a serious amount commotion nearby. I slowly opened my eyes and remembered that I was staying in a Frank Lloyd Wright hotel. A thing that rarely happens to me occurred. A smile crossed my face, and I hopped right out of bed to greet the day. I immediately went to the window to see what was happening outside.

Historic Park Inn

Mid-afternoon on Thursday, September 18, I left Minnesota to make a 3.5 hour drive to Mason City, Iowa to spend the night in a hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows that planning ahead and getting the FLW properties on an itinerary, is not my normal behavior. My brother mentioned the significance of Wright in Mason City to me (shock #1) so I checked it out online a couple of weeks ahead of time. I called to make a reservation (shock #2) and learned that they were completely sold out (shock #3) on any day that would be convenient for me to pass through Mason City. I was advised to continue to try to get a reservation by calling, because someone might cancel their reservation. With some persistence I was able to get a reservation.

As planned I arrived on Thursday night and checked in at the Historic Park Inn Hotel in Mason City, Iowa, which was still at no-vacancy status. The usual FLW goosebumps covered my arms, and I nearly burst into tears right in the lobby because I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to run through the entire place and take photos. I took my bags to my room, grabbed the camera and went to see the rest of the hotel. I roamed around the hotel completely beside myself with joy. I started to feel some hunger pangs as I was outside admiring the City National Bank portion of the building, so I convinced myself to go sit down, relax and have some dinner. I went to The Quarry, a tapas bar, adjacent to the bank. The menu was great (best edamame I have ever eaten!) and I ordered way too much food in all my excitement. As I sat and waited on my dinner at the bar, another patron asked me if I was in town with the Shirley Jones thing. I replied that I had come to see the Frank Lloyd Wright and asked what the Shirley Jones thing was. He explained that it was Shirley Jones of Partridge Family fame in town doing a show. It turns out that Mason City is the home of the writer of The Music Man and there was a big production in town over at the middle school. Was this why the hotel was sold out?

First National Bank

After too much delicious dinner, I waddled back to the happiness of the hotel. I spent an hour sitting on one of the balconies enjoying a drink and the Wrightness of it all before retiring to my room for the night. The building is full of cozy common spaces that need to be used to appreciate the comforts of this hotel.

The next morning after being awakened by the commotion, I quickly proceeded to the breakfast room and asked about the noise outside.  I was told that workers were setting up for the bank robbery! What?!?!?!?! Apparently the bank in Mason City was robbed by John Dillinger and his gang and the citizens of Mason City reenact that event every year! Holy cow!

I finished breakfast, showered and checked out. I inquired about another night, but I was told they were still full, so I planned to move on to Springfield, IL and a tour of the Dana-Thomas House the next day. I paid for the docent tour of the hotel and went about taking photographs until time for the tour to begin.

Frank Lloyd Wright

The tour was led by a terrific guide, who shared her extensive knowledge of the history of the hotel and its restoration. The evolution of this project is fascinating. The docent who led my tour was involved from early on so her insight into the unfolding of what became this gorgeous facility was intriguing from the detail of the efforts expended to where the pieces and parts of the building were found to what the purists think about the modern improvements. A tremendous amount of information about this restoration is available for review prior to a trip for those that prefer that style of touring. I enjoy pouring through the reading following the tour, so the tour information is fresh.

Historic Park Inn

My impression of the hotel could not be better. I love that this property has been restored in a way that is useful, keeping a reasonable amount of the original material and design intact. The property is entirely open to the public for enjoyment, and the access that has been given to us to actually use the property as intended is exciting. I rarely revisit places, but I will definitely be back in Mason City, Iowa at my earliest opportunity. My experience was so good, that I will even give serious consideration to making an annual trip there.

Stockman House

The Stockman House was not open for tours on the day I visited, and I did not want to pay the $60 price tag for a private tour. By this time I knew I would be returning to Mason City, so I was satisfied just taking a few photos.

I send the most sincere thank you to the volunteers whose countless hours of hard work and dedication made the restoration of the Historic Park Inn Hotel possible.

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