One of the gems of the Lincoln Highway in Iowa is the historic Lincoln Hotel in Lowden, Iowa in Cedar County. Following a complete restoration, the hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places 1996 by Susan Licht for the owners at the time Brad and Elizabeth Norton. They started restoration work in 1992 with a historic resource grant from the government. At that time, the town saw little value in the building and considered burning it to the ground. It had sat empty since 1981.
The inside, however, has changed numerous times and was qualified for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing with HUD-style light fixtures. It was then fully occupied by tenants. Importantly, the dog legged yellow pine staircase has been preserved.
Built in anticipation of the Lincoln Highway’s construction, America’s first transcontinental highway, the property is associated with events that made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history. The original construction of the hotel started in March of 1915 by Cecelia Clemmens and her husband to coincide with the construction of the Lincoln Highway and was one of the first businesses in Lowden established to serve the automobile.
The historic Lincoln Hotel is located at the junction of Old Lincoln Highway and Hoover Highway in Lowden, Iowa. Built in 1915, the hotel originally hosted automobile travelers on the coast to coast Lincoln Highway. In 1996, after a complete rehabilitation, the Lincoln Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
With the construction of the new highway, came a demand for food and lodging from automobile travelers. The hotel provided an alternative to railroad hotels, campgrounds, and motor courts. At its beginning, a stay at the Lincoln Hotel cost $2 a night and a steak dinner was only 75 cents.
No longer $2 a night, the hotel still offers very affordable rates for each of its four suites that feature private baths, queen size beds, and luxury linens. And as their website notes, “guests can enjoy a quiet small-town setting surrounded by beautiful farms and scenic byways”. Most notably, the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway. It’s a great place to experience history while getting away from the craziness of everyday life. Don’t worry though, they do have Wi-Fi if you need a “reality check” during your stay.
Another factor of the hotel’s significance is the modern Prairie School architectural style, one of the only examples in Lowden. Elements that make up this style are the low-hipped roof, wide overhangs, and textured stucco with a neutral color. The building faces south with a wide front porch to cover guests from the elements.
In the 1990s, owners took the exterior down past the old stucco and rebuilt using a similar building method of pebble dash stucco. Everything on the outside is preserved close to its original state. The windows, the Tuscan-style columns on the porch, and galvanized pipe railings are all original.
More work was done in 2019 to incorporate modern amenities. “It has been fun and wonderful to restore,” according to Owner-Proprietor Melissa Schliff-Hardman, “We are very proud to operate the hotel.”
Today local events drive visitors according to Schliff-Hardman. “We see people come for birthdays, family reunions, and the occasional wedding,” she reveals. Bicyclists feel at home too includung a place for bike storage inside. Lincoln Highway enthusiasts and car clubs stay from time to time and appreciate the history. “Some visitors are train enthusiasts too and stay for the soothing night train sounds,” adds Melissa.
A Preservation Iowa “Preservation at Its Best” award winner, the Lincoln Hotel is a fine example of what can be done to preserve Lincoln Highway in Iowa cultural and historic places. Visit them on the web at www.lincolnhoteliowa.com to learn more and make your reservation. You will enjoy your stay!
The Historic Lincoln Hotel
408 Main Street
Lowden, Iowa 52255