Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Preserving Frank Lloyd Wright’s work in Mason City October 3, 2014

THIS WEEKEND, IT’S THE SITE of the Iowa Independent Film Festival.

The 1910 Grille sits to the right with the hotel entry in the middle and the former bank to the left.

The 1910 Grille sits to the right with the hotel entry in the middle and the former bank to the left.

But typically, the Historic Park Inn Hotel in Mason City draws the interest of those who appreciate Prairie School architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the 1910 complex anchored in the heart of this northeastern Iowa city.

The original City National Bank today houses the hotel ballroom.

The original City National Bank, right, today houses the hotel ballroom/banquet room.

Originally built as a hotel, bank and law offices, the restored corner structure today houses a 27-room hotel, five-star restaurant (1910 Grille’) and banquet/ballroom/conference facilities. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

Windows and architecture inside the ballroom/banquet room.

Windows and architecture inside the ballroom/banquet room.

Recently I took a self-guided tour of the Wright-designed structure. Docent-led tours are available for a fee.

The Park Inn Hotel front desk.

The Park Inn Hotel front desk.

A skylight.

A skylight.

Dark. Everything is dark.

Dark wood dominates.

As I expected, this Prairie School building is heavy on the wood. Dark. Defined by lines and simplicity.

The billiard room.

The billiard room.

My husband kicks back in an historic building that draws lots of interest.

My husband kicks back in a first floor lounge.

Light floods this area which opens to an upper level patio.

Light floods this area which opens to an upper level patio.

This place, I determined, could be the setting for the classic detective board game Clue. Imagine Professor Plum reading in the library, Miss Scarlet dancing in the ballroom, Col. Mustard shooting pool in the billiard room, Mr. Green hanging out in the lounge. No weapons in sight, though.

So wanders my imaginative mind.

Exterior detail on the former City National Bank.

Exterior detail on the former City National Bank.

Imagination will be showcased within these walls at the weekend Iowa Independent Film Festival which continues from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday and then resumes Sunday, running from 1 – 7 p.m. Showings include documentary, feature, short feature and student films.

A sculpture of Frank Lloyd Wright stands in Central Park, photographed here from an upper story of the hotel.

A sculpture of Frank Lloyd Wright stands in Central Park, photographed here from an upper story of the hotel.

“Wright on the Park: Saving the City National Bank,” a documentary, airs on Sunday. The non-profit Wright on the Park was established to “own, restore and maintain the Frank Lloyd Wright designed properties across from Central Park.” The restoration cost $18.5 million.

The entire building was restored several years ago for $18.5 million.

The entire building was restored several years ago for $18.5 million.

To the vision-led historians, much is owed for preserving this Prairie School treasure in Iowa.

Strong rooflines define Prairie School architecture like this at the hotel.

Strong rooflines define Prairie School architecture like this at the hotel.

FYI: Mason City is also home to other Frank Lloyd Wright designed and Prairie School architecture. I’ll post about that next.

If you are interested in attending the film fest, click here for more info.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Benson theatre hosts screening of Midwest thriller, Munger Road July 26, 2011

The DeMarce Theater, a long-time business in downtown Benson in western Minnesota.

NEARLY SIX MONTHS after Tim and Susie Kletscher purchased the historic DeMarce Theatre in downtown Benson, they are hosting the screening of a Midwest thriller that just could hit the big-time.

Munger Road, written and directed by Nicholas Smith, debuts to the public at a 7 p.m. showing on Thursday, July 28, with a second show at 9 p.m. and repeat shows on Friday evening.

A promotional poster for Munger Road's screening in Benson.

“I’m extremely excited. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us, our theater, and Benson,” Tim Kletscher says. “I feel really honored to have this chance. At this point it’s an independent film done by a ‘rookie’ movie writer and director, but there’s a really good chance that it will be shown in many theaters and DVDs will be sold.”

The PG-13 movie, shot in and around Smith’s native St. Charles, Illinois, is based on an urban legend about a supposedly haunted stretch of rural Munger Road. As versions of the story go, the ghost of a little girl killed on train tracks along the road still haunts the site as does a farmer who lived on a farm near the tracks.

The movie version focuses on four teens that go missing along Munger Road the night before the annual Scarecrow Festival.

St. Charles really does have an annual Scarecrow Festival—this year October 7 – 9—during which Munger Road will premiere. Actor Bruce Davison, with popular film credits like Six Degrees of Separation and X-Men, stars in the movie.

For now, the Kletschers get the honor of the first public screening in their western Minnesota theatre, which was recently updated with a new digital

Another poster promoting the Illinois-based thriller.

projection and surround sound systems and a silver screen.

The couple got their lucky break because Munger Road executive producer Jeff Smith, Nick Smith’s dad, grew up in Benson and graduated from Benson High School in 1973. The Smiths have many close friends and family in Benson and a nearby family lake cabin where they are currently vacationing.

“Originally, Jeff Smith, wanted to do a private showing for his friends and relatives.  I wasn’t supposed to advertise it, discuss it, tell about it, or anything with fear that it would jeopardize their movie company opportunity,” Tim Kletscher says.  “Then, he called back a week later and wanted to screen it to the public. He needed to start generating revenue, so they could start getting it in the hands of ‘mini-major’ film companies. I told him I’d do all I could to get as many people here to see it as possible. So, I’ve been pounding pavement and flapping my jaw about it since…trying my hardest to drum up excitement.”

That promotional groundwork has also included airing the movie trailer before every Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 showing at the DeMarce Theatre and doing interviews with area media.

Kletscher is hoping for big crowds to fill the 320-seat theatre. He’ll have Munger logo, “I survived the Drive” t-shirts, designed by Nick Smith, for movie-goers to purchase. Before the film starts, Nick Smith will address the audience and ask them to later evaluate the movie on comment cards. “They really want to hear what average people say about it,” says Kletscher, who has been in nearly daily phone contact with the Smiths and recently met them.

He’s impressed with the personable father-son, whom he terms “down-to-earth, Midwest guys.”

“Nick’s been rolling with the Hollywood guys, but he hasn’t lost his roots,” Kletscher says. “He’s unbelievably talented.”

It’s that hometown connection which led the Smiths back to Benson to screen their thriller. “The city of Benson means a great deal to my family,” a promotional poster reads. “We are very proud…”

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Tim and Susie Kletscher’s purchase of the DeMarce Theatre in February, click here to read an earlier blog post. Also, go to the DeMarce Theatre Facebook page by clicking here.  For the record, Tim Kletscher is my cousin and an elementary school teacher in Benson.

Text © Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photo and posters courtesy of Tim Kletscher