Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Delighting in the historic Hotel Winneshiek in Decorah, Iowa July 12, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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The historic Hotel Winneshiek, 104 East Water Street, has transitioned through the years from hotel to apartments and back to its original historic hotel grandeur.

The historic Hotel Winneshiek, 104 East Water Street, has transitioned through the years from hotel to apartments and back to its near original historic grandeur.

WE ALMOST DID NOT ASK, almost passed by Hotel Winneshiek in downtown Decorah, Iowa.

But what the heck, why not ask about the cost of staying overnight in this historic hotel, my husband and I decided on a recent visit to this river town.

Our room, number 305.

Our room, number 305.

Much to our absolute delight and surprise, we booked a third-floor room for $105 (that includes local and state taxes and an AARP discount). That’s less than we’ve paid for a room at a chain hotel in Fargo, North Dakota, and less than we paid the following night for a stay at another chain hotel in Marquette, Iowa, both minus in-room whirlpools.

Inside the mood-setting Atrium.

Inside the mood-setting Atrium.

Looking down into the Atrium.

Looking down into the Atrium.

And then looking up to the beautiful stained glass above.

And then looking up to the beautiful stained glass above.

The Beaux-Arts style Hotel Winneshiek, built between 1904-1905 and restored in 2000 to near original construction, impresses with its terrazzo floors, marble walls, cherry woodwork, octagon rotunda/three-story atrium, stained glass and a general feel of luxurious elegance.

Even the sconces and room signage fit the historic mood.

Even the sconces and room signage fit the historic mood. Details impress.

Often I struggle to sleep well in a hotel. But in our corner room (with a king bed and a whirlpool bath) overlooking the back parking lot, I slept deep and long. That, in itself, earns a star rating.

Norway’s Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha even stayed here in 1939 in a three-room suite.

The entry features this luxurious lobby and current cow art.

The entry features this luxurious lobby and current cow art.

Moving toward the atrium, note the stained glass and pillars and original flooring.

Moving toward the atrium, note the stained glass and pillars and original flooring.

Check in at the stout front desk with a friendly staff. You'll receive a packet of valuable info on Decorah.

Check in at the stout front desk with a friendly staff. You’ll receive a welcome packet of information on Decorah.

Hotel Winneshiek is suited for royalty. From the minute we entered the hotel, paused in the impressive corridor and then walked up to the front desk in the stunning Atrium, I felt sheltered, cocooned and transported in time. You get that kind of Old World comfortable feel here.

Hotel Winneshiek is conveniently located in the heart of historic downtown Decorah.

Hotel Winneshiek is conveniently located in the heart of historic downtown Decorah.

For someone like me who appreciates historic architecture and details, this marked the perfect place to spend a night in the heart of Decorah’s historic downtown. We could walk to shops and eateries. The hotel complex includes Albert’s Restaurant and Pub, where we didn’t dine, but perhaps should have. We heard good recommendations later.

On the hotel exterior, I noted this sculpture.

On the hotel exterior, I noted this sculpture.

The relocated grand stairway and a mural featuring the gardens on former hotel owner, Chicago philanthropist Helen Basler. Today the hotel is owned by Northfield, Minnesota-based Rebound Hospitality.

The relocated grand stairway and a mural, right, featuring the gardens of former hotel owner, Chicago philanthropist Helen Basler. Today the hotel is owned by Northfield, Minnesota-based Rebound Hospitality. Basler had the hotel restored to its near original state in 2000.

Now, I would not recommend arriving in Decorah without a reservation at the 31-room Hotel Winneshiek, if that’s where you really want to stay. I expect we were fortunate to find a room available on a Monday night as walk-in guests.

An inviting scene in a hallway of the hotel.

An inviting scene in a hallway of the hotel.

Just so you are not surprised, room rates start at $109 (plus applicable taxes) and reach up to $249 (plus taxes) for the Presidential Suite.

And, because you may wonder like me about that name, Winneshiek was the chief of the Winnebago Indians. Decorah is located in Winneshiek County and the historic Hotel Winneshiek therein. To learn more about the hotel’s history, click here.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Ask about touring the former opera house in the Steyer Building next to, and connected to, the hotel. Here's a view of the refurbished area, which is considerably different in lay-out from the original.

Ask about touring the former opera house in the Steyer Building next to, and connected to, the hotel. Here’s a view of the refurbished area, which is considerably different in lay-out from the original.

Another view of the same room shows the balcony and the seating area below.

Another view of the same room shows the balcony and the seating area below. This space is used for receptions, reunions, etc.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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