There’s no denying the bold vision and dramatic design of Frank Lloyd Wright’s many works. Preserving and revitalizing his last standing hotel in Mason City, Iowa, was a multi-year effort of false starts, overcoming funding shortfalls and sheer perseverance. Yet 101 years after the hotel’s first grand opening, the Historic Park Inn once again opened its doors as a Prairie School lodging experience – with views enhanced by Andersen Windows.
The finished building garnered raves at the September 1910 opening, but only 10 years later, the hotel faced an uncertain future – a farm crisis hit the area and a newer hotel with larger rooms opened nearby. Over the years new owners struggled to use the space in different ways, changing and updating its original design thereby gradually distorting the clean lines and breathtaking interiors. By 2000, when the city of Mason City purchased the hotel, it was in need of significant repair and restoration to reveal its architectural significance and original splendor. The building was listed as one of Iowa’s most endangered historical landmarks.
A group of passionate advocates created a formal organization, Wright on the Park (WOTP) and worked on a strategic plan for restoring the hotel. They began searching for new building products that could help carry the spirit of the older vision and found Andersen® windows.
Following the prevailing wisdom among preservation experts, WOTP carefully assessed all windows to determine which ones could be restored, and which would have to be replaced. WOTP then arranged to purchase 72 casement windows for their guest rooms, and provided old images and art glass samples for Andersen to create and donate custom art glass inserts that replicated the look, color and texture of the original art glass windows. As they studied the photos, Andersen designers created custom window stops to replicate the authentic look and feel of the windows.
The completed hotel celebrated its grand reopening in September 2011, just over 100 years after first opening. A tour through the space shows the careful thought that went into bringing the original terra-cotta and white lobby tile to light, and how the new windows so carefully blend with the design, they go nearly unnoticed. The reopened hotel sparked a Wright renaissance in Mason City, with new attention being paid to a collection of Prairie School homes in a nearby neighborhood, and a new interpretive center helping to inform tourists and Prairie School fans. Thanks to the careful efforts of WOTP, with support from companies like Andersen, this hotel’s second life will be a much longer one.