Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mark on Mason City Iowa

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright was not a man you could forget and he is well-remembered in Mason City, Iowa.  Mason City has been named one of the world’s best cities for architecture lovers and it is easy to see why!  You can see the beauty of his architecture in both the Stockman House and the Historic Park Inn Hotel which were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Historic Park Inn Hotel is one that I was lucky enough to visit during a hosted trip to Mason City, Iowa.

Stockman House

The beautiful Stockman House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Our guide Avis showed us the Stockman House describing how the house was symmetrical.

A wonderful guide named Avis showed mom and I and a couple, that amazingly enough hailed from Peoria, Illinois around the beautiful Stockman House.  We toured the house after we watched a video telling us just how Frank Lloyd Wright ended up in this northern, Iowa city town.  The Stockman House is what our guide described as a middle class Wright home and the house came about because Dr. Stockman and his wife Eleanor wanted a new home.

The Stockmans had seen a home in Ladies Home Journal that they wanted to use as a base.  They knew of Wright because their daughters had attended Spring Green school where Frank Lloyd Wrights mother had taught them.  They had admired the architecture of the school that Wright had built.

The Stockman house was built in 1908 it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is only Prairie School house in Iowa that is open to the public.  Wright’s Prairie School period lasted from 1900 – 1917.

The house is lovely and symmetrical. Avis showed us details of  this house and the Prairie style. The house has been moved from its original spot.  “This house was originally three blocks away.  The Stockmans stayed there for nine or ten years, then four more families moved in, then the last familiy’s daughter auctioned it and no one bid.  The Methodist Church wanted the  land  for a parking lot and they bought it and moved it here,” she explained.

After the move, the house was purchased by a non-profit group that restored the Stockman House. Besides the Stockman House, there are also other historic Prairie School Houses designed by Walter Burley Griffin and other Wright Associates.

Wright took off for Europe not long after he designed the amazing Historic Park Inn Hotel & City National Bank.  After being married to his wife Catherine for 20 years, he abandoned his wife and children with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the wife of a client.  This left the development of the Historic Park Inn Hotel in hands of his associates.

Wright leaving left a scandal making his return to Mason City impossible, however, his abrupt departure opened up opportunities for his other associates.  Wrights, his though still lives on in his architecture.

The Historic Park Inn Hotel & National Bank

These lights were in the former bank. These stained glass windows decorate the lobby of the hotel. Teri led the tour of the Historic Park Inn! I was thrilled to stay in the Historic Park Inn!

Frank Lloyd Wright’s  talent can’t be denied.  The beauty of the hotel is breath taking!

Our tour of the Historic Park Inn Hotel & its National Bank tour was led by docent Teri Elsbury.  “This is the last working  hotel in the world that exists that Frank Lloyd Wright designed. It’s like finding a Picasso in your attic.”

She began the tour in this amazing hotel that I had the good fortune to stay in.

The tour began in what was the dining room and is now the lobby. She pointed out the amazing stained glass ceiling that is original and was stored in a local home.

At the time that the hotel and the Stockman home was built Teri said that Mason City was buzzing.  “The economy was booming until they put a stop to immigration, then things changed.  When Wright came here, he designed the first shopping center.”

The building was used part as a bank, some for a group of lawyers, other as retail space and a portion as a hotel.  Completed  in 1910, the Times Herald was supposed to move into the end  section, of the building but Teri said they refused after Wright’s abrupt departure for Europe.  A cafe moved in instead and today the 1910 Grill, wonderful restaurant is there.

In the 1920’s the Depression hit and the National bank went under along with most of the banks in town.  “The one bank that didn’t go under though was later robbed by Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson,” Teri said and added that they have reinactions of that history in Mason City.

The Lawyers moved out of the property and while the hotel remained open, they didn’t update and having one bathroom to share didn’t go over good with the more modern times.  The property sold to A.A. Adams who changed the building adding a third floor and making it a haven for retail shops.

Eventually the building fell into ruin and was for sale on EBAY with the requirement that it would be remodeled.  Eventually the building sold to local citizens who bought it for a dollar and raised funds to restore it to its current beauty!

While owned by the non-profit, the hotel is run by Stony Creek which reincorporated under the Historic Park Inn name.  They changed the rooms to include bathrooms and now there are 27 unique rooms with Frank Lloyd Wright flair.

I loved staying in the beautiful hotel which pays such attention to detail.  The furniture, the lighting, the lobby and the stained glass all show the style which Wright is famous for and made staying in this historic hotel an experience not to be missed!


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