Can the Hotel Itself Be the Destination?

Lobby of the Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa photo by Sheila Scarborough

Lobby of the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Maybe it’s the perpetually half-full glass in my traveling mind, but rather than think, “I can’t believe this little Iowa town can make a go of a high-end hotel,” I prefer to think, “Isn’t it fabulous that this small town in Iowa knows how to rock a gorgeous hotel!”

Years ago I watched the Twitter stream from a blogging event hosted by family travel expert Jody Halsted – it was held at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa, built in 1913 and located a bit northwest of Des Moines. Photos and tweets from the conference attendees were full of surprise and delight about the place, and I thought that in the unlikely event I ever ended up in Iowa, I had to see it .

Cozy bowling alley downstairs at the Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa photo by Sheila Scarborough

Cozy bowling alley downstairs at the Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Well. The unlikely happened, I was in Iowa, and I HAD to see the Pattee.

Cyclists are welcome at the Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa photo by Sheila Scarborough

Cyclists are welcome at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

After only one night, it’s my turn to share photos and to wish that I could have stayed a lot longer, not only in the town and in the hotel, but in my room.

You see, all 40 of the Pattee rooms are different. Themed stuff usually seems forced and hokey to me, but these folks have done an extraordinary job of tying stories and people from the surrounding Iowa and Midwest communities into each of the room themes.

I didn’t ask for anything in particular and was put in the Welsh Room, which celebrates the Welsh heritage of several families from right there in Perry. I was gobsmacked by the level of detail that went into the room decoration, starting at the entry door with a Craftsman-style light illuminating a leather room number sign. Don’t you love the number and font style?

(P.S. When did I become a font nerd?)

Room sign at the Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa photo by Sheila Scarborough

Room sign at the Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The room was small but it was just me traveling so it was fine. Every inch pulled in references to Wales – items on the wall, tchotchkes on the shelves, the bed linens, the curtains….it went on and on. The hotel has a lovely book that details how they crafted every room.

The Welsh Room at the Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa photo by Sheila Scarborough

The Welsh Room at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The cupboard to the left of the bed was filled with hand-carved Welsh love spoons and books about Wales including some Dylan Thomas poetry, of course. I had to sit down and read back through his most famous words….

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Rage, rage at the dying of the light.”

Hotel Pattee Perry Iowa Welsh Room decorative items and books

Decorative items and books in the Welsh Room at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I’m a sucker for an immaculate, pretty bathroom.

Bathroom sink in the Welsh Room at the Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa photo by Sheila Scarborough

Bathroom sink in the Welsh Room at the Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Don’t forget to explore even the curtains!

Closeup of curtains specially woven for the Hotel Pattee Welsh Room by Trefriw Mills in Wales (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Closeup of curtains specially woven for the Hotel Pattee Welsh Room by Trefriw Mills in Wales (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

An Iowa artist with Welsh roots did the hand-drawn musical scores of Welsh songs that hang near the bed.

Hotel Pattee Perry Iowa Welsh Room decorative calligraphy of musical score (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Hotel Pattee Perry Iowa Welsh Room decorative calligraphy of musical score (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The in-house restaurant at the Pattee, Dave’s Milwaukee Diner, is a tribute to local railroad heritage and served up a perfect steak salad for me when I stumbled in there just before closing. I will not torture you with a photo of the pie that I had after dinner.

The chef and staff work hard to source local, in-season food and beverage options whenever possible – earlier that day I’d stopped by the nearby Picket Fence Creamery to sample their ice cream and fresh milk, and the owner proudly told me that he supplies the Pattee.

Steak salad in Dave's Milwaukee Diner in the Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa photo by Sheila Scarborough

Steak salad in Dave’s Milwaukee Diner in the Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

As the granddaughter of a railroad man, I loved gazing at a train mural during my meal.

Train mural in Dave's Milwaukee Dinner Hotel Pattee Perry Iowa photo by Sheila Scarborough

Train mural in Dave’s Milwaukee Dinner Hotel Pattee Perry Iowa (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

My morning stroll around the small town of Perry included waving at the guys up the street at the foundry, peeking into the windows of the town’s Carnegie Library building, and saying hello at the Perry Perk coffee shop around the corner (where each local patron has his or her own mug on a display rack.) It was homecoming weekend for the high school, so most of the windows had colorful decorative paint and various slogans about beating the football team from a couple of towns over. It was Americana at its best and most authentic.

Would I return to Perry just to stay at this hotel?  You bet.

The staff was great, the owner was out and about greeting guests and checking on things, there are cycling paths I need to see (the bike shop next door to the hotel can help me with that, although I’m not ready for Iowa’s famous RAGBRAI) and I have 39 more special Pattee rooms to explore.

A can-do spirit in Perry, Iowa even at the laundromat (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

A can-do spirit in Perry, Iowa even at the laundromat (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

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