There is nothing like staying in a historic hotel! I love the architecture and beauty of a hotel with class, and the Blackhawk Hotel in downtown Cedar Falls fits the bill. On a recent hosted stay, my husband Keith and I were in a lovely King Suite of this hotel built in 1870.
We dropped off our bags and enjoyed a stop at Cup of Joe, a fun coffee shop with a retro vibe in downtown Cedar Falls. I had a glass of ginger peach tea and shared a banana everything cookie with Keith before we met with Kim Manning of the Cedar Falls CVB. Kim shared some information about some of the fun places to stop in downtown Cedar Falls then we were off!
We stayed in the beautiful Blackhawk Hotel after checking out the College Hill Art Festival and stopping by the Five Sullivan Brother’s Convention Center to attend the 100 Years of John Deere Tractor event. We loved the fact that there were John Deere tractors everywhere. We even saw one guy with a trailer in a parking lot with antique plows on his trailer. There was some trading going on somewhere!
Blackhawk, Hotel History
I learned that this was the second rendition of the Blackhawk Hotel in downtown Cedar Falls. The first was originally built-in 1853 and was known as the “Winslow House”. It was not as grand as the four-story Second Empire building we stayed in, the first hotel was a wooden-framed stage-coach hotel that was located a block from the town’s first mill along the Cedar River that winds its way through Cedar Falls.
I found it interesting when I stopped at the Ice House Museum and read the historic stone plaque that Cedar Falls was once known as the “Garden City of Iowa” and that “The Red Cedar River, the main stream in Iowa …it’s banks were formerly covered with groves of red cedar trees, from which it took its name”.
As far as the Blackhawk Hotel, the first hotel was renamed the Western in 1858 when an additional floor was added. The hotel was later renamed the Carter House, then it was destroyed by fire, and was rebuilt in the 1870’s in the current Second Empire style and named the Davis House. The hotel was again renamed the “Burr’s Hotel” when the Burr family purchased it. The hotel changed looks when in 1914, it received an upgrade from architect John Ralston, who redesigned it with the current combination of Second Empire and Mission style architecture.
The Blackhawk Hotel Today
Today the Concierge Manager, Mary Hinman said that the new motto is making the downtown more urban. With the cool downtown Cedar Falls vibe, the Blackhawk Hotel fits right in. Mary shared, “ I worked at the Blackhawk Hotel in college, then came back two years ago as the Manager. Now I am the Concierge Manager.”
This is a new job she described that is kind of like a caretaker. Besides the Blackhawk Hotel she added that the owners also have 3 apartment buildings with year leases and air BNB’s available as well. “So you can call for air BNB’s here too,” Mary added. “They are brand new buildings and are fully furnished.”
Keith asked Mary if the Blackhawk has had any famous visitors. “Not too long ago, Mayim Bialik the star of Blossom, and actress in Big Bang Theory. Bill Clinton was here and so was Huey Lewis and the News, and John Hagen of the Texas Tenors is from here,” she said.
”Anabeth Gish also stays here and is from here too” Mary added.
Downtowns Cedar Falls!
Close by the hotel is the historic theater formerly known as the Cotton Theater that was built-in 1910. In 1994 the restored theater’s name was changed to the Oster Theater. I loved the statue out front called Showtime in downtown Cedar Falls. The statue was created by Merle Blair and unveiled in 2013. The statue begs for pictures taken beside it, so of course I had to have mine!
Keith and I took a walk after the lovely European-style breakfast at the hotel and peered into the windows of the downtown Cedar Falls stores. We saw the plaque about poet Nancy Price and admired her art along the sidewalk in front of the hotel. The art and architecture of downtown Cedar Falls is fun and eye-catching and Keith lamented that the hobby shop wasn’t open yet as we walked over to the Farmer’s Market.
Farmer’s Market & Overman Park
The houses and buildings along the way to the nearby College Hill’s Farmer’s Market in downtown Cedar Falls were lovely. The Cedar Falls Women’s Club looks to be a great place for rehearsal dinners and such! I also want to come back to town some time and tour the Victorian Cedar Falls home and Carriage House Museum!
We were impressed by the Farmer’s Market and the variety of products offered. We sampled some Farm House wine and I was taken with the Blues, a blue grape variety. We saw the freshest of vegetables and products from honey and more.
There was entertainment and the singer we heard was in front of a beautiful stage in Overman park. In front of the City Hall we noted a cool “Freedom Flame” a memorial to Cedar Falls Servicemen.
The Ice House Museum outside view was our final stop before heading to the John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum for the second leg of the 100 year celebration. The beautiful museum was built-in 1921 and tells the story of ice harvesting and the Cedar River.
For more information about great things to see and do in Cedar Falls, check out the Cedar Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau by logging onto their website at http://www.cedarfallstourism.org.