Bonnie E. McCoy of Mason City, Iowa died May 14. She and her husband, Bob, are well known as being instrumental in Mason City’s architectural preservation. Their home, Walter Burley Griffin’s Blythe House, is in the Rock Crest, Rock Glen development, near Frank Lloyd Wright’s Stockman House and the Architectural Interpretive Center named for Bob. These photos of Bonnie and Bob were taken when they received the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy’s Wright Spirit Award last October 3 at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. The last photo shows them with the Building Conservancy’s late John Thorpe.
The Park Inn Hotel opened in 1910 with 43 rooms. Guests either shared adjoining bathrooms or used bathrooms down the hall from their room. The hotel lost its luster when the 250-room Hotel Hanford, with larger rooms and private bathrooms, opened four blocks away. The Park Inn was a hotel until 1972, when it became an apartment building. It was abandoned after 1989. The renovated Historic Park Inn has 27 rooms or suites, each with a private bathroom. These photos trace the transformation of the living spaces between 2005 and 2012. The original bedrooms doors were louvered, to allow air to circulate.
Wright on the Park has published two excellent books about the complex. Both books are well illustrated:
“The Historic Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank” (2007), Softcover, 90 pages, is a rich history of the two buildings.
“Wright Again” (2012), Hardcover, 76 pages, tells the story of the renovation of the bank and hotel buildings.
For more information:
Martha Huntington, second from right, the project architect, leads a planning session in the construction trailer in 2010. She died of cancer in 2011, just four weeks before the hotel and bank building reopened:
The restoration of these public spaces was dramatic. Architect Jonathan Lipman discovered that the skylight had been moved to the Blythe home, a private home in Mason City, probably by Blythe. The home, which was designed by Walter Burley Griffin, is now owned by Bob and Bonnie McCoy, early champions of the restoration project. The McCoys donated the skylight to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy so that it could be reinstalled in the Park Inn building, now known as the Historic Park inn.
2005…Bob McCoy takes me through the decimated hotel building:
2008: My first look at the restoration, including reconstruction of the mezzanine above the lobby and the Skylight Room:
My tour guides were McCoy and Ann MacGregor, Executive Director of Wright on the Park, which oversaw the restoration:
My visit to Mason City a few weeks ago was to attend the annual meeting of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. It was interesting to compare photos taken from the same vantage point between 2005 and 2012. I could not shoot the identical picture in 2010 because the construction trailer blocked the view of the bank building, left,and hotel from the park. The photos are from 2005, 2008, 2010, and 2012.
I first toured and photographed the Park Inn and City National Bank buildings in Mason City, Iowa in 2005. The buildings had opened in 1910.
When the bank failed, the building was remodeled and, in one critic’s words, desecrated, in 1926. Wright’s brick walls were replaced by plate glass windows when retail space and offices took over the first two floors of the building. Indeed, a second floor was inserted into the building, between the banking floor and the original third floor law offices.
The bank building, left, and hotel in 2008.
The idea of restored buildings seemed remote then. I knew what architect Martha Huntington, the leaders of Wright on the Park and other civic leaders envisioned, but it was hard for me to imagine I photographed the buildings again in 2008 and 2010, before seeing the dreams of Mason Cities’ visionaries realized when I returned a month ago. A photo from 2010 shows the dramatic change underway in the bank building as the retail space is removed, before Wright’s design is restored:
And, finally, in 2012, as the bank building has become a conference center:
I will be posting photos showing the dramatic restoration of the hotel in the near future.