|By Emily Christensen, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 6, 2005 - CEDAR FALLS --- It's been three and a half years in the making, but room renovations at the Black Hawk Hotel are entering into the final phase.
Dan Tindall, a Grinnell developer and owner of the Black Hawk Hotel, purchased the historic hotel in 2002 with the hopes of turning it into a Cedar Valley destination. Work began almost immediately to upgrade the rooms and lobby, and he hopes to have the final piece of room construction finished in time to celebrate the new year.
"We will still be doing some work on the rear entry ... but as far as the rooms are concerned, this is it," Tindall said. "We've been blessed and totally accepted by the community. They have really embraced the idea of a historical hotel. Everything has exceeded our expectation."
More than 100 years of history lie within the old hotels walls.
According to history books, the Black Hawk Hotel occupies one of the oldest continuously-operating hotel sites. It has opened under multiple names since the first room was reserved in the early 1850s. Much of the current building was constructed in the late 1870s after the original was destroyed. It took the name Black Hawk Hotel in 1914 under the direction of area investors. The investors hired John Ralston, a Waterloo architect, to redesign the structure, which resulted in a combination of Second Empire and Mission architecture.
Rebecca Kauten, the hotel's general manager, said design elements from both styles still can be seen in the stripped down rooms. Because the hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, contractors had to take special care to leave the original bricks and pressed tin ceilings intact.
Once finished, the third floor will boast six larger suites, a substantial upgrade from the 12 studio-sized apartments that once comprised the upper level. The apartments were rented out to long-term residents, and many were painted or wallpapered to suit their tastes, Kauten said. As the demolition phase comes to an end, remnants of those years still can be seen on some walls, where the topmost layers of wallpaper have been peeled back.
"A lot of people who stay here have no idea about the history of the hotel. They fall in love with the lobby and have no idea what is going on on the third floor," Kauten said.
Tindall said part of the hotel's renewed success can be attributed to discreet construction crews who allowed the hotel to stay open while remodeling projects were being completed.
"We just started improving and kept on with it for three years. We just kept raising the bar," Tindall said. "Now we have a wonderful cocktail lounge (The Stuffed Olive) and a great new restaurant (SoHo). We have been able to continue to provide great amenities for people that visit downtown."
And someday Tindall may even tackle the now unused fourth floor.
"We may develop that into penthouse suites," he said.
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Copyright (c) 2005, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa
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