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  • Writer's pictureEmilene Leone

The Historic Park Inn, Mason City, Iowa

My husband decided it was time for us to take a little romantic getaway for the night, and asked if I had been to the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Historic Park Inn, in Mason City, Iowa.

To his surprise, and mine, I had not, so we decided to abandon our children and responsibilities and take a road trip to central Iowa, to visit the last hotel that can claim to be designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

(An aerial view of the Historic Park Inn, Mason City, Iowa, photographed by me with my Mavic Pro 2 Drone)

The Historic Park Inn was a designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908, but he was not able to actually supervise the construction of it due to his being a bit preoccupied with running off to Europe with his lover Mamah Borthwick . While the lovebirds were away together on their spiritual hegira, and becoming the favorite subjects of tabloid journalism of the time, construction ensued in Mason City, and the structure came to life, housing a hotel, a bank and law offices. Sort of a strip mall before strip malls were a thing, businesses came and went in this beautiful structure through the decades, including, I read, a stripclub. What a bragging right that would have been, to be the only stripclub to exist in a Frank Lloyd Wright designed structure!

The building fell into disarray until a group of citizens banded together to help bring life back to the Park Inn Hotel. The nonprofit group Wright on the Park took on a massive restoration effort and reopened the hotel.

It was my husband's first time in a Frank Lloyd Wright designed building and he was surprised by the low height of the ceiling in the lobby, which of course gave me a great opening to go on a lecture about Frank Lloyd Wright's "Compression and Release" technique, which is really probably not the sort of talk a man loves to hear from his wife on their romantic getaway but he chose to marry me, he knew what kind of a nerd he was getting, so whatever, it's fine. Talk compression and release to me, baby.

Compressed in the lobby, you are released when you walk into the room behind it

I just sort of roamed around, exploring, not wanting to be a bother to staff or other guests. There are some areas that I did not end up photographing, like the basement bar or billiards area. There is a lovely ballroom set in the former bank space, but it looked like someone was setting it up for a wedding, so I didn't want to linger. Here are some images I captured as I prowled through the building:

We had dinner at the in-house restaurant. It was a beautiful space and our meals were delicious.

I headed outside to get some shots, but it was very dark, very windy, and very cold. The day had started out very warm and I hadn't even bothered to bring a coat, so I was freezing. The photos ended up a bit blurrier than I would have liked, due to the long exposure time and wind being a bad combination, but I was in a rush to get out of the cold and back to my room, where my husband was nice and warm, so I just did the best I could. I have spent many hours photographing houses in the cold for pay, and even that isn't very fun, so I don't really like to do it for free, even if it is a former stripclub designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

This last shot, I really gloveless fingers were literally numb, but I wanted to capture the building from this angle, from the bank side. The sky was absolutely gorgeous, so the loss of blood flow to my fingertips was worth it in this case. I love how this turned out.

After that, I headed back to my room to thaw out. I didn't take many photos of our room because our stuff was all strewn around and I was too lazy to pick it up.

I put my camera away for the evening, took a nice hot shower, and had a lovely night.

The next morning, my husband, who -remember- had never been to a Frank Lloyd Wright building before, even suggested that maybe we should plan more trips together to go to Frank Lloyd Wright buildings together. Is the Historic Park Inn going to be his gateway drug into a Frank Lloyd Wright? Maybe?

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