The Herring, “swellest little hotel in Iowa,” 1928

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

In The Better Country, published 1928, Dallas Lore Sharp and his wife Daphne crossed the country hoping to find if there was “a better country” out there somewhere. Both in their 50s with 4 boys in college, they traveled slowly, musing on the topic daily. One of his favorite overnight stops was a small town in Iowa:

We had covered two hundred and seventy miles since morning, and they were bringing us, weary enough, into the city of Belle Plaine, halfway between Chicago and Omaha — and to The Herring, “the swellest little hotel in Iowa.”

Their hotel man was most welcoming: “‘You’re in the home of the literati,’ said mine host…. I’ve entertained other great men, you see.”

I braced up visibly, and asked about something to eat.

“We don’t serve meals,” he replied with fervor, “but I have the best radio set in this town, if not in the entire State. Be my guests at the concert to-night, I beg you.”

      After dinner at a café, they returned to the parlor “to attend the concert of the air.” Unfortunately the hotel was “too full of ‘bones’” that caused static, spoiling everything over Belle Plaine that night except The Bedtime Story, which was about two baby woodchucks who got lost in the woods. That gentle tale, combined with drone of static, put Sharp to dozing instantly.

1922 Hotel.jpg

The Herring was built in 1900 with additions in 1912 and 1922. It was listed in the National Register in 2008—read the application at npgallery.nps.gov. However, the building is deteriorating and in danger. Recent plans for restoration and revival can be found at herringhotelpope, which is also the source for this old postcard, but with no action to address its issues, the hotel was recently taken over bu the city, per jimmagdefrau.com

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