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Hotel Grinnell History

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Don’t know much about the Hotel Grinnell’s history? Read on… 

The building in which the Hotel Grinnell resides was built in 1921 and served as Grinnell’s junior high school until 1978 when it closed and became office space for the city. It was rarely used and fell into deterioration until 2012, when owner/operator Angela Harrington had the idea of repurposing it into a luxury hotel and event center – something she believed Grinnell deserved. 

Five long years of funding, permitting and finalizing architectural plans were followed by a remarkably speedy 11-month renovation. While cutting through miles of red tape to achieve her vision, Harrington stayed faithful to one rule – preserve the rich history of this iconic building while keeping things as local as possible.

The industrial glass used in the showers honors Grinnell’s industrial heritage, and locally produced steel was used for the bed frames. All of the contractors who renovated the building were from the area, and every tile was set by Angela’s husband. The school’s original maple floors were restored and refinished, yet they still show signs of students’ foot traffic and scratches from moving desks. Located in the old gymnasium, the ballroom kept the hardwood floor complete with the original basketball court markings. Clever allusions to the hotel’s old-school heritage include chalkboards in all rooms, “do not disturb" signs resembling men’s neckties, room key card sleeves that resemble hall passes and the wooden red apples given to each guest at check in. A lounge and patio named The Periodic Table serves up cocktails like the “Kinetic Energy” and “Spontaneous Combustion.”

exterior straight on shot
before and after renovation
king loft
bed with colorful artwork
staff in front of hotel grinnell sign
ladies riding bike by enterance

However, one of the hotel’s most unique features, and Harrington’s favorite, is the artwork. Not one of the 300 original pieces of art found throughout the hotel is duplicated, an accomplishment that she says, “nearly killed me.” And while the guest rooms and public spaces were primarily designed for comfort, they’re eco-friendly as well. Fresh air from outside is continuously piped into rooms, and beds are draped with Egyptian Cotton luxury sheets made in a “socially responsible” fashion by Parachute.

The rest, as they say, is history. The Hotel Grinnell stands today as the city’s most popular destination hotel, a favorite not just of business and leisure travelers, but of brides and grooms looking to add a splash of warm nostalgia to their celebration.