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History Plays a Role in Amana Colonies’ New Hotel Millwright
The hotel complex is uniquely Amana from the customer’s first step into the lobby. The design team incorporated old equipment from the mill. On the left, the yarn wall is a nod to the woolen production that still occurs on site. Credit: Sara Montgomery
Located in the heart of the historical Amana Colonies, a new Midwestern oasis is now open for both leisure and business seekers alike. Hotel Millwright, a luxury boutique hotel in Amana, Iowa, officially opened its doors in October and is a shining example of “what’s old is new again.”
The property was originally founded as a thriving woolen mill in 1855 and was recently adapted into a modernized building that includes 65 guest rooms, dining spaces and over 8,000 square feet of event space.
The area’s long-standing history played a key role in the hotel’s transformation. What is now Hotel Millwright was once the industrial center of the village of Amana. The textiles produced in the old mill were sold across the country and gained a national reputation for quality and craftsmanship, something the Amana Colonies (a group of seven villages in the Amana area) are still known for today.
“The Amana Colonies are a National Historic Landmark, one of Iowa’s top visitor attractions and a top historic attraction,” explained Jeff Popenhagen, chief revenue officer of the Amana Society. “Preserving the physical structures that are an essential part of Amana’s story and using those structures in ways that celebrate that story is vital to maintaining this Iowa treasure.”
Hosting Meetings at Hotel Millwright
The Amana Society, a legacy corporation that safeguards the area’s heritage and works to distribute Amana Colonies products nationwide, needed to preserve the story of the site, and that included saving the historic structures found in the mill complex. It brought in third-party firms to find the best uses of the site to ensure its economic stability and found that the best plan was “a multi-use approach that enhances Amana’s position as a hospitality and entertainment destination,” Popenhagen said.
(Photo: After downsizing and changes in the textile industry, many of the buildings in the Amana mill complex were empty or underused. An adaptive reuse project transformed them into a luxury boutique hotel with ample gathering space. Credit: Sara Montgomery)
Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, the Amana Colonies attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. With the addition of Hotel Millwright, the Amana Society aims to introduce a new generation of visitors to the many shopping and hospitality options that the seven villages provide.
“One of the most significant benefits for Hotel Millwright is its physical structure,” Popenhagen noted. “The eight-acre campus allows for numerous outdoor venues, while additional campus buildings provide added intimacy and privacy for events, just slightly removed from the central hotel rooms. Much of our personalization comes from our commitment to operate a scratch kitchen with countless options to meet customers' particular tastes and needs.”
Hotel Millwright and its grounds were designed to entertain and will expand dining options in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Corridor areas—both a mere 30 minutes away. With over 8,000 square feet of event space, Hotel Millwright features multiple settings for meetings and events, including:
- The Merino Loft: The former site of the woolen mill loom operation, The Merino Loft offers over 7,000 square feet of event space for up to 225 guests and is conveniently connected to the hotel by Hotel Millwright’s historic bridge.
- Electric Thread Social Club: This dynamic whiskey bar in the former mill race electric building provides an intimate setting ideal for gathering, lingering and socializing indoors and out. The social club is located next to the hotel main entrance and has a distinct modern industrial vibe that offers signature craft cocktails, traditional bar service and bourbon flight experiences featuring local distillers.
- The Indigo Room: Located in the center of it all, The Indigo Room is the heartbeat that hosts breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a unique space available for small groups, meetings and gatherings. The restaurant features a casual and comfortable service for breakfast and lunch while dinner offerings will feature an upscale style, boasting flavors that celebrate the regional area.
- The Carding Studio: Located in the original millwright workshop, this flexible space is ideal for a small event. Just steps away from the hotel, The Carding Studio offers a private space that accommodates up to 50 guests.
[Related: 4 Eastern Iowa Unexpected Offsite Venues]
For those that enjoy an outdoor environment, the Campus at Hotel Millwright features several outside event locations. Consider conducting a team-building activity in one of the open spaces or hotel courtyard, followed by a private whiskey tasting to finish the evening. Property staff can also assist in providing access to the Amana Colonies Nature Trail or bike trail system, as well as bus and group tours of the surrounding area.
Paying Homage to Hotel Past
Inside Hotel Millwright, visitors will find a celebration of all things Amana. Wheels, pulleys, gears, levers and drive shafts are hanging in their original homes while photos of millwrights and mill workers tell the story of what happened in the space, linking the past with the present.
“The equipment dates back to when the Mill Race canal powered the mill, where it was restored and situated throughout the hotel,” Popenhagen said. “The blending of old with new showcases the mill structures’ beauty and character and highlights the hotel’s special onsite services.”
Guests can see how the lobby was transformed from a former boiler room or how the Electric Thread Social Club stands where the mill once met the water.
“We wanted to keep things simple and let the mill’s historic elements, photography, art and artifacts do the talking,” explained Sara Montgomery, creative director of the Amana Society.
These disparate elements come together to create a site that both honors its roots and looks toward the future. As Popenhagen said, “Hotel Millwright is a place to rediscover the Amana Colonies.”