Last Remaining Frank Lloyd Wright Hotel to Be Moved to Vegas Strip

This story is part of Treehugger's news archive. Learn more about our news archiving process or read our latest news.
Photo: elizabethdunbar/Flickr.

Although relocating and reconstructing historic homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright isn’t exactly an inconceivable notion (see the proposed plan to move Bachman Wilson House in Millstone, N.J. to Tuscany, for example), it’s not every day you hear of schemes to move entire Wright-designed hotels.

Completed in 1910, the Historic Park Inn Hotel in downtown Mason City, Iowa, is the only surviving hotel in which Wright served as the architect of record. Out of over 400 completed structures and hundreds upon hundreds of additional buildings that were never realized, the massively influential father of organic architecture designed only six hotels in his lifetime. Five of those designs were built and all but the Park Inn Hotel have succumbed to fire or demolition over the years. The most famous of these was Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel, a stunning Mayan Revival-structure that survived both wars and earthquakes only to be razed in 1968. Portions of the Imperial were rebuilt at an architectural theme park in Inuyama.

Now it appears that despite an award-winning $20 million gut renovation that was completed less than two years ago following decades of neglect and eventual abandonment, the once-endangered Park Inn Hotel may face a similar fate as the Imperial Hotel. The now 27-room boutique hotel, which was shuttered in the 1970s and then sat vacant for years prior to its rescue, would be deconstructed piece-by-piece and rebuilt over 1,500 miles away in the heart of Las Vegas.

Prairie School, meet Sin City.

Although Wright left his mark in neighboring Arizona, there are no known structures designed by the architect in Nevada. Marty St. John is the Las Vegas-based developer responsible for orchestrating the move and purchasing the Park Inn Hotel from Wright on the Park Foundation, the Mason City-based nonprofit that renovated and currently owns the hotel. The purchase was made for an undisclosed amount.

Firm in belief that "there's plenty of room for old-fashioned adult fun following form and function," St. John tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal*:

The city of Las Vegas, known for its understated and elegant architectural style, has long been deprived of a Frank Lloyd Wright building. And since the man himself passed in 1959, I figured that the only way we'd get one was if I moved the last existing Wright hotel to the heart of the Strip. Vegas deserves the unrestrained glitz and glamor that Wright is famous for! Sorry Iowa!

At this time, the logistics and cost involved with the relocation of the hotel — the preservation struggle behind the structure was the subject of of a 2009 documentary film titled "The Last Wright" — are unclear. However, St. John has hinted at plans to build around the hotel, adding a high-end day spa, all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, wedding chapel, mermaid tank, and 400 additional guest rooms including 50 super-luxurious “Un-Usonia Suites” reserved for childless high-rollers.

There are also rumors that St. John plans to re-create Wright’s Midway Gardens, a German-style beer hall and entertainment complex in Chicago that was demolished in 1929. (The Park Inn Hotel itself was a prototype for Midway Gardens). The complex, which would be located adjacent to the expanded Park Inn Hotel, would be home to a nightclub and 3,000-capacity theater. St. John is already in talks to bring an original musical revue tenatively titled “Taliesin Best!” to the theater.

He hints at the show’s content:

My intention is to combine the theme of historic preservation with Vegas-style spectacle while also delving deeper into the turbulent personal life of Wright. Adultery! Scandal! Exile! Tragedy! There’s so much that the public doesn’t know about the greatest American architect of the 20th century and I’d love to share his story with the world. It's also only fitting that the Park Inn Hotel be permanently relocated to Las Vegas, elopement capital of America — during the hotel's construction in Mason City, Wright left his wife of 20 years and ran off to Europe with the wife of a former client.

St. John adds that the female cast members would be topless throughout a majority of the show. “Wright would have wanted it that way.” He continues: “I’d also love to get Tom Jones involved somehow as a tribute to Wright’s Welsh ancestry.”

What's more, St. John also hopes to incorporate Wright's lifelong love of farming and agriculture into the new venture.

As a young man, Wright worked on his family's farm in Wisconsin so I thought it would be only fitting to incorporate his love of the land into the new hotel. Although the desert landscape may prove to be formidable, my plan is to launch 'Spinach and Slots,' the world's very first in-casino CSA program.

Both descendants of Wright and the residents of Mason City who fought so hard to restore and preserve the Park Inn Hotel have yet to comment on the planned relocation.

* Before you completely freak out, remember to check today's date.