1. Raise funding
Wright on the Park, a nonprofit organization formed in 2005 with a mission to own, restore, preserve, and maintain the Historic Park Inn, raised money to rehabilitate the 100-year-old hotel. The board hired design firm Bergland + Cram to oversee the renovations, and the architecture firm spent years researching the building.
2. Clear out the shell
With investor funding and historic tax credits in place, Wright on the Park hired Henkel Construction Company as the project’s general contractor and Stoney Creek Hospitality for the hotel’s management and operations. In January 2010, construction demolition began to convert the turn-of-the-century hotel, which had been vacant for three decades, into a modern facility. “Most of the rooms did not have bathrooms but [instead] used shared bathrooms down the hall,” Stoney Creek Hospitality CFO Steve Noto says.
“We tried to maintain as much of the integrity of the original design and yet make it functional for travelers and corporate guests.” The hotel and adjoining bank building were taken down to their stud walls, mold and asbestos were removed, and the foundation was fortified before the building could be restored.
3. Modernize and reclaim
To accommodate modern guests’ expectations, the hotel’s 47 original guest rooms were converted into 27 rooms with adjoining baths. Most rooms have a combination of modern furnishings and reproductions, but a few original elements were preserved. Two clawfoot bathtubs were saved, and one is featured in the hotel’s Historic Suite. And many of the fixtures and finishings were maintained in the hotel’s common areas, including stained-glass windows, doors and trim, tile floors, and glass panels in the skylight room just off the lobby. “Because of the Historic Preservation Trust dollars being used, anything that we could salvage we had to,” Noto says.
4. Market it right
Marketing the last remaining Frank Lloyd Wright hotel still in operation presented a particular challenge for Stoney Creek Hospitality’s staff in advance of the August 2011 opening. The firm is known for its lodge-inspired hotels used for leisure and business travel throughout the Midwest, but the Historic Park Inn Hotel offers an opportunity to attract history buffs, architecture enthusiasts, and people who enjoy staying in distinctive properties. Opening events included a Labor Day picnic in the park across from the hotel, activities for children, a ladies tea time in the parlor, and a Skylight Ball. “We’ve had overnight guests from seven different countries,” Stoney Creek Hospitality marketing officer LaVonne Klein says. “Some of the spaces convert to conference rooms, and we have a lot of weddings booked already.”
5. Show it off
Mason City is now celebrating the restored landmark’s presence in its main business corridor. A century ago, two Mason City attorneys commissioned Wright, then just a popular Chicago architect, to design the hotel and adjoining bank building after seeing Wright’s work in the Windy City five hours to the northwest. Along with the hotel, Wright designed a few Mason City homes. “The Historic Park Inn was right on a very popular, busy corner in Mason City, and it was the pinnacle of style,” Noto says. “For a lot of the community, it had been a forgotten gem, but many people worked for years and years to preserve and save it. For us, having it in our home town, it was a natural fit for Stoney Creek to operate it.” ABQ