Hotel Pattee: A Beautiful Surprise

Located in Perry, Iowa—35 some miles northwest from Iowa’s capital, Des Moines—Hotel Pattee is one of those hidden gems worth the drive.

For roadtripping travelers, it often comes as a total surprise to find such a unique, historic and elegant place to rest a weary body.

From the outside, the 1913 brick beauty of a building hardly hints at what’s inside. But once you step through the doors into the hotel’s expansive lobby, be prepared. A natural elegance pervades in its Arts and Crafts styled interior: mahogany paneling, Persian carpets, terra cotta tile floor, a massive stone fireplace, period chandeliers, fresh flowers. All this, in a small town in Iowa? 

Check-in couldn’t be easier or more pleasant (especially when there’s a cakestand with red velvet cupcakes on the counter).

Looking around, it’s hard to believe in 1993 the place was a run-down shell of a building. Thanks to Perry, Iowa native, Roberta Green Ahmanson–who never forgot her roots– it’s to her credit, vision and belief (not to mention her pocketbook) that this piece of her hometown’s heritage was renovated and restored.

An “art hotel” long before the term even existed, Ahmanson arranged to have more than 70 artists represented in the Pattee’s collection with works displayed throughout the building. Though she no longer owns the hotel, she left many of the paintings. 

It’s fun wandering around, looking at the artwork, or exploring the cozy Willis Library with its wood-burning fireplace—a great place to relax. Or guests can take books to their room if they prefer.

The 40 individually themed and decorated guestrooms each have their own story to tell. Reflecting the heritage of the city of Perry and the state of Iowa, they include quilting, marching bands, salutes to farm life, notable locals, immigrants, and even one in honor of Louis Armstrong—Hotel Pattee’s most famous guest. Each are carried out in detail—fabrics, wall coverings, furniture, lamps, antiques, and paintings. (You can find photos of  all the rooms on their website.)

My suite honored DJ Pattee and had to be the finest in the hotel. (Room rates start at a modest $102 and go up to approximately $189 for suites– a true bargain.) My room’s décor reflected the Victorian era that Pattee lived in, starting with its little entry way and the beautiful antique brass coat stand. A separate “parlor” featured a tiled and working fireplace (the wood was laid and ready to be lit), exquisite antique lamps, needlepoint pillows, a sofa that could be made into a bed. Honestly, I was ready to move in for a week.

The bedroom was inviting with a plush and comfortable 4-poster king bed, lovely overstuffed chairs for reading and ottomans for putting one’s feet up on, beautiful furniture and framed artwork and prints.

Best of all, the bathroom was the only room in non-Victorian style (although the bedroom did have a flat screen t.v.)—with a two-person jet spa tub, separate walk-in shower, double sinks, and plush towels.

I ate both breakfast and dinner at the hotel’s restaurant: David’s Milwaukee Diner. Named for David Pattee and the Milwaukee Railroad—Perry’s main employer for more than 100 years—its dinner menu features delicious steaks, pork tenderloin, shrimp and more. I loved my dessert (it was the server’s favorite) called the “Eton Mess”: a combination of meringue, fresh berries and whipped cream.

Breakfast was a bright and sunny affair, and as popular with the locals as the hotel guests, I noticed. Eggs benedict, biscuits and gravy, country-fried steak—you don’t come here necessarily to watch your diet. I feasted on farm fresh eggs and a cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting. Yum.

Of course, I also found myself in the Inter-Urban Lounge during a late afternoon happy hour. Decorated in the Prairie Style (associated with Midwestern architect Frank Lloyd Wright), it features a gorgeous stone bar and has a country friendly vibe.

On Friday and Saturday nights, the hotel has live music in the lobby by the fireplace–so on one of the two nights I was there it was fun to sit with a glass of wine and listen. Actually, it was there that I came to the conclusion that Hotel Pattee is what it advertises: a destination. You don’t really need to go anywhere else (although I did enjoy the small town’s shops). But I was thinking the hotel would be fun for a group of friends; the Raccoon River Valley Bike Trail runs right by it and they offer indoor bike storage for guests. Or in winter time, it’d be perfect for a book club group. Even bowling buddies might enjoy the place.

Oh yeah, did I mention the hotel has its own bowling alley?

When the original hotel opened in 1913, it offered the latest in fitness and recreation—a bowling alley. Today, it still has two modern lanes in the basement in a 1913 setting. There are shoes, bowling balls, and electronic scoreboards. And it’s free. How many hotels can offer that amenity?

For more information, or to make reservations, check the website. You can also compare rates and book through Travelocity, Expedia or Priceline.

Review and photos by Donna Tabbert Long who was a guest of the hotel.

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