Preservation Iowa’s 2016 Most Endangered Buildings: Herring Hotel (Belle Plaine, Benton Co.)
The Herring Hotel was built in 1900 and expanded to 3 stories in 1912. An addition was added in 1922. It was listed on the National Register in 2008.
Dubbed as “The Swellest Little Hotel in Iowa” it was popular for both prominent and common guests. Prominent guests included US presidents e.g. Theodore Roosevelt and early Hollywood stars e.g. Carl Switzer. When the Lincoln Highway was built through Belle Plaine, Mr. Herring committed to making his place a one stop, all-under-one-roof establishment. He added a gasoline/service station as well as a covered garage for guest parking. The Herrings also established the Lincoln Highway Glad Hand Club with its headquarters based in their hotel. And James Herring was Iowa’s first Lincoln Highway Association president.
Architectural features include custom windows in the sun parlor, terrazzo flooring, and an open staircase.
This property is in immediate danger of possible complete demolition. Due to an unpaired roof, which caused years of ongoing water damage, and also to some extent, the negligence of a neighboring zero lot line property, the western portion of the property is already a complete loss. The removal of this section of the building is now necessary to save the original main portion of this structure.
The non-profit group, the Herring Hotel Building Alliance (HHBA) is the current owner. HHBA is a privately funded organization established in 2008 to restore, preserve, & perpetuate the historical significance of the story and building the Herring Hotel and its rich transportation history, for both its locomotive and Lincoln Highway connections.
At present the city is requesting that the owner make immediate, costly updates, otherwise they will take possible legal action. The lack of local resources and local support, continue to delay this project. Because a portion of the building is not savable, the city feels restoration is not viable and therefore offers no support in saving the building.
Preservation Iowa’s Most Endangered Property program was started in 1995 and implemented to educate Iowans about the special buildings and historic sites that are slowly and gradually slipping away from us. In the past 20 years, Preservation Iowa has designated over 140 archaeological sites, churches, landscapes and a variety of other buildings.
The full list of Preservation Iowa’s 2016 Most Endangered Properties includes:
- Endangered: Troy Academy Built in 1850
- Endangered: Herring Hotel, Belle Plaine
- Endangered: Beyer Building on 4th Avenue, Grinnell
- Endangered: First Baptist Church, Grundy Center
- Endangered: Iowa State Penitentiary
- Endangered: Knutson Building
- Endangered: St. Patrick Church
- Endangered: Reimann-Schoeneman House