Friday, August 28, 2009

Little Hotel on the Prairie

by Ashley Takacs, special to the Weekly Wright-up

The Park Inn, then and now.

While the Martin House Restoration Corporation approaches its final phases of work on Jewett Parkway, another community of preservationists is embarking on a similar journey halfway across the country. Residents of Mason City, Iowa have formed Wright on the Park Inc., an organization overseeing the work of restoring Wright’s last surviving hotel, the Park Inn.

The group hopes to open the Prairie style hotel to guests in 2011 – a tall order, considering that the building, completed in 1909, has been in a state of neglect for over two decades. Mason City preservationists first made national headlines in 2004 when the City Council offered the building on eBay for $10 million to anyone who promised to restore it. When that failed to draw interest, Wright on the Park stepped in, and the city signed over the deed.

The $18 million complete interior and exterior renovation started early in August, thanks to numerous grants and local coordination. The task includes a comprehensive restoration of the brick and terra-cotta fa├žade, replacement of the art glass skylights and a complete interior reconstruction – in the early 70’s, much of the space had been converted to apartments or altered to accommodate various businesses (including a strip club).

Of more than 500 completed Wright building, only six were hotels. The Park Inn’s massing suggests that it served as a prototype for Midway Gardens in Chicago, and the famed Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, both of which have since been destroyed. Perhaps even more significantly, adjoined to the hotel is the City National Bank, one of two remaining Wright-designed banks. Wright on the Park has purchased the bank, and eventually plans to reunite it with its neighbor.

For anyone interested in spending a night at the Park Inn, make sure to book early. Once completed, there will be a scant 20 suites. And Wright enthusiasts who cannot imagine a weekend without their hairdryer and cable television needn’t worry: the historic gem will be restored to its original splendor, while providing modern amenities that will appeal to today's travelers.

Click HERE for more on the Park Inn and City National Bank.

1 comment:

Maggie C. said...

Great job, Ashley!
"Welcome Back!)

Maggie C.