Frank Lloyd Wright designed 1,141 works according to the FLW Foundation; 532 were completed. Of those, 5 were hotels. The most famous was Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel, which has been torn down. So have 3 others. The 5th, The Historic Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank, has had a $20,000,000 rebirth in Mason City, Iowa, at 7 West State Street.
In 1909 Wright completed a design for a bank, law offices, and a hotel. A perfect example of his Prairie Style, it was built the next year in downtown Mason City and functioned as designed until 1926 when a remodel added retail and office space. Only the exterior retained Wright’s characteristic design. The hotel, which lasted until 1972, went into steep decline and was judged a 5th rate establishment, at best. It became apartments. Its fate changed when a group of preservation-minded citizens succeeded in getting it included among the treasures on the National Register of Historic Places. A restoration project formed in 2005 and HPI (Historic Park Inn) reopened to the public in August, 2011. The 43 original hotel rooms had been reduced to 27. Guests from all 50 States (West Virginia was inexplicably the last to provide guests) and at least 40 countries have found this very successful hotel with a 90% occupancy rate.
The Historic Park Inn has been lovingly restored to its original appearance while also being updated. Its art glass ceilings, Ladies’ Parlor, and mezzanine where a 4 piece orchestra once entertained cafe diners look exactly Wright. The City National Bank, however, is now a ballroom/meeting space. The 1910 Grille, HPI’s restaurant, is getting rave reviews, but be aware that it isn’t open on Sunday or Monday. The Bank’s Mercury light fixtures, one pictured above, have been copied and mounted. Wright designed the lights and Richard Bock sculpted Mercury. One sad note: Martha Jane Huntington, the project architect who oversaw the restoration for 10 years died of cancer just weeks before its completion.
It’s a kick to stay overnight in a genuine Frank Lloyd Wright property and have the time to explore his distinctive, often eccentric touches. For example, the main lobby desk below the mezzanine seems a bit low. A man over 6 feet tall will probably never greet incoming HPI guests. Wright once told apprentices that the perfect human height was 5 feet, 6 inches. How tall was FLW? I expect you know the answer.