Herring Hotel Update

2016 Most Endangered Property Designee Update
Herring Hotel, Belle Plaine
Submitted by Kristine Pope, Herring Hotel Building Alliance (HHBA)

Herring Hotel in Belle Plaine, IA, circa 1922.

The last year (really two) have been a huge success for the Herring Hotel project. Little work has been done to the structure, yet we feel confident that this will be changing very soon. Through educational lectures, events, and presentations the Herring Hotel Building Alliance (HHBA) has been able to share how important the Herring Hotel and its history is to Belle Plaine, Benton county, and to the state of Iowa. We have been traveling throughout the state sharing to as many groups as possible, the amazing story behind Will Herring and his Swellest Little Hotel in Iowa (on the Lincoln Highway). Support has begun to grow, and plans are being made to save this most deserving property.

A 6 year plan (building goals) has just been announced supporting and suggesting the possibility of a complete renovation/restoration for the structure. The western section of the building, an area which we have been told will need to be rebuilt, will house a health and wellness center, and 3 handicapped (wheel chair) accessible apartments. The Health and Wellness center will not only serve the community of Belle Plaine, but the entire area known as Southern Benton County. Our intent will be to make information as well as county services more accessible to this part of our county, while promoting the same idea that the early 1900s hotel sample rooms provided. Virginia Gay Hospital and Clinics has agreed to form a partnership with us, to provide the medical knowledge and support needed for our center. Other Benton county organizations will also be involved, giving them a permanent place to call home in southern Benton County, while making their services more conveniently available to this area. Together, along with these many groups, the HHBA plans to work to make the health and wellness center, not only a hub for information, but a place all people will be welcomed, whether looking for help or providing it, Will Herring treated all of his guest like family. The Health and Wellness center will display this same congenial reception.

Due to this new development/plans, the HHBA has just formed a new, partnering organization, which will handle this area of the project. This will allow the HHBA to continue to focus on the history and education part of the Herring Hotel project. The Herring Hotel Foundation is a nonprofit organization that will support the financial side of this project, as well the Health and Wellness center and its services. All funding, grants, contributions, and areas of financing pertaining to the building, will be handled by this group. This group will work hand in hand with the HHBA to keep the Herring Hotel a part of the Belle Plaine, and Benton county area for many years to come.

Regarding the structure, most recently, Mr. Ryan Prochaska, a historic preservationist from the Iowa City area, has offered his consulting support to the Herring Hotel project. Mr. Prochaska has completed a treatment plan to stabilize the structure. The HHBA’s long term goal is to utilize Mr. Prochaska as their project manager, overseeing all work concerning the building. Until this opportunity becomes available, the HHBA and the Herring Hotel Foundation will continue to confer with Mr. Prochaska on any building concerns or needs. Mr. Prochaska is also working on the Preston Station project with the Preston family, here in Belle Plaine.

We feel the future of the Herring Hotel is brighter today than it has been in quite some time. We are excited for the direction this project is moving, and we are honored to share the story promoting its past. There is not a day that goes by, where our group does not learn something new and fascinating regarding its history. This is indeed, the Swellest Little Hotel in Iowa.