The Merrill Hotel, Pearl of the Mississippi

The Merrill Hotel

Everything about The Merrill Hotel screams luxury. From the moment you step into the quiet, tasteful lobby, to the courteous staff. When you enter the elevator, it talks to you, “Door Closing, 7th floor…”. Then the room, oh my! Our room not only had a walk-in shower, but a BIG bathtub. My husband Keith and I were hosted at the Merrill Hotel. We stayed two nights while we explored this fascinating city. Jodi Hansen with Visit Muscatine arranged our visit. Jodi grew up in Muscatine. She later worked in Chicago, then returned to Muscatine and now promotes her hometown!

Muscatine was made famous for the Pearl Button industry. This rose from farming the mussels from the Mississippi River. Their iridescent shells proved perfect to make buttons. Muscatine became known worldwide as the Pearl Button capital of the world!

Built along the Mississippi River, Kathy Aders shared, ”This hotel is a new build. It is the number two hotel in the state of Iowa. It is a AAA Four-Diamond property. Jim and Rebecca Howe, and their family built the hotel in honor of their father Stan Howe. Stan Howe passed in April of 2017 and the hotel opened in 2018.”

Other family members besides Jim and Rebecca include daughter Jan O’Callahan and her husband Tom, son Thomas and his wife Ellen, and Son Steve and his wife Jill.

The Hotel

Kathy Aders of the Merrill grew up in Northeast Iowa. She went to school for hotel and restaurant management in Cincinnati. She worked in Chicago before coming to the Merrill. “I came here in September.”

While she loves the hotel, it is the people of the Merrill that really drew her. ”Every hotel has four walls, but the people inside make or break you. Lee Belfield, the GM of the Hotel teaches people hospitality.”

While we were there, he personally greeted us. Everyone was exceptionally kind. The Merrill has 50 employees.

The Beautiful Merrill Hotel

The Story Behind the Hotel

Trenner Meuret, Area Director of Communication Strategy shared the history behind the Merrill Hotel. “We want to be a place of prominence in the city, a green space, a place to play and stroll. The hotel was converted to a Marriott in July of 2019. It was built as a tribute to Muscatine. It is not here to make money, but as a place to grow around, to bring people to Muscatine.”

I learned Merrill is the middle name of Stanley Howe. He is the gentleman the hotel was built in honor of. Stanley Howe was born February 5, 1924, in Muscatine. He graduated valedictorian from Muscatine public schools. Active in Boy Scouts, he studied engineering at Iowa State. Graduating at the top of his class, he went on to Harvard Business School. Then served in the Army mostly in Germany. According to his obituary, “Stan returned to Muscatine and came to work at Home-O-Nize Company with his lifelong mentor and former Boy Scout leader, Max Stanley.”

Over time Stan Howe became the company President and CEO. Stan served on the HON Board and shared his knowledge of business. Stan Howe was one of the individuals that was part of restoring historical sites. He is part of the industry group that created foundations that support the city. Everywhere we went in Muscatine, we heard about industry leaders supporting local and even global causes.

Sculpture beside the hotel

Outside Space

Outside there is a nice space next to the hotel. Out front we noticed poems in the sidewalk. We learned that there is an annual contest and the winner’s poem is embeded in the sidewalk. We saw this as we walked around downtown.

Room at the Merrill
Jodi Hansen, Trenner Meuret and Kathy Aders at Maxwells sharing information about Muscatine and the beautiful Merrill.


The restaurant is named after Stan Howes mentor Max Stanley. The dining room flows beautifully from the lobby. Everything blends perfectly. Best of all though is the food. This is because of the talent behind the cuisine. Chef Tess Crookshanks and Ryan Causse create wonderful meals. The food tastes amazing and is visually beautiful as well! We were honored that the chefs came out to greet us!

Chef Tess is particular about taste tests for events. Kathy said she will only allow food to be tasted that has been sitting in the hot box for half an hour if it will be setting out on a banquet. This assures that you will taste it exactly as it will be at your event!

If you just want a drink there is also a beautiful bar area as well!

Kathy Aders with Chef Ryan Causse and Tess Crookshanks!
Wonderful pork chop!

Fire place at the far end of the dining room makes for a cozy stop and great photo op.

Meeting Rooms, Weddings and More

The Merrill Hotel is a great place for anything from a local meeting to a wedding or a conference. With 122 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of meeting space, the Merrill is ready for guests and events. They even have a Presidential Suite.

For weddings, they are in the process of changing one meeting room to a bride’s room. They have the beautiful Mississippi ballroom with a balcony and view of the lighted bridge. The ballroom has 4,700 square feet of space. It can be divided into three sections.

The meeting rooms have electric blinds and offer perfect seating options! Best of all, the Merrill staff will work with you to try to accommodate your budget.

Room set up for a meeting.

Quiet and location, location

We noticed during our stay how quiet everything is. Kathy shared that they reworked Mississippi Drive when they built the hotel. They even have quiet hours. You don’t hear trains, boats, or vehicles from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.!

The location is amazing. We walked to shop and dine and visit historic sites. We walked in the mornings along the River Walk. In the hotel each morning I took advantage of the fitness room. Sadly I forgot my swimsuit and missed out on the salt water pool.

The Merrill is filled with lovely art. Kathy shared that Jim and Rebecca Howe are responsible for much of the hotel design. The architect was from Iowa City.

For more information about the Merrill Hotel, call 563-263-2600.

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