ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa -- Nearly a year after the demolition of The Inn at Okoboji -- a beloved West Lake Okoboji resort with roots dating back to 1896 -- a brand-new boutique hotel emulating the spirit of the old Inn is under construction just up the road.
Construction began last fall on the Inn Hotel on a parcel of land near the Arnolds Park amusement park.
The 38-room hotel, which will boast more than 26,000 square feet of space, heated outdoor pool, a Havana-style bar, an exercise space and a conference room with chandeliers, is expected to open in May.
The hotel will be independently owned and operated by West Okoboji residents Mercedes Steffes and her husband, Marc, whose general contracting firm is building the property.
The Steffes family has not previously owned a hotel, but Marc Steffes' contracting firm, Steffes Companies, had worked on the years-long "Restore the Park" campaign, which restored major parts of the Arnolds Park amusement park and rebuilt the historic Roof Garden ballroom. The new Roof Garden is set to open around June.
After the parcel near the park came up for sale, the Steffes saw an opportunity to build a hotel.
"We thought, 'Wow, with the new Roof Garden would most likely come the need for more lodging in that area,'" Mercedes Steffes said. "So, with the property being available right down in that area, we said, 'Let's go for it.' We just kind of jumped in."
Steffes said the Inn Hotel will be the only hotel with its level of amenities within easy walking distance of the summertime lakes attractions, including West Lake Okoboji.
The Inn Hotel and the Beach Club Lounge will have a 1920s-30s "Old Hollywood" motif, with two-tone marble checkerboard floors, brass fixtures, soft lighting and potted palms. The Steffes hope to make the hotel into something like hotels of that earlier era, when patrons -- even those who didn't actually rent a room -- commonly ate, drank, lounged and held meetings in hotel lobbies and restaurants.
"I feel like our unofficial motto has been, 'Experience the Golden Age,'" Steffes said, referring to "The Golden Age of the Lake" -- a time when entertaining at the Iowa Great Lakes had a certain style and cachet.
The Beach Club Lounge, which is open to the public, features a mixture of Art Deco and tropical motifs. They're aiming for a 1920s Havana vibe, when affluent Americans often vacationed in Cuba to escape Prohibition in the United States.
The original Inn at Okoboji opened in 1896 at 3301 Lakeshore Drive when J.A. Beck constructed a 24-room hotel on the picturesque blue waters of West Lake Okoboji. The hotel, which later expanded to 155 rooms, was demolished last year by developers who bought the property at auction in a $5.7 million deal. The nearly 400 feet of lakefront will be developed as single-family homes while 69 acres that was formerly used as a golf course and farmland will be turned into green space and a park with paved trails that the owners would maintain.
The Inn Hotel's architecture and some of its furnishings and fixtures are inspired by the historic resort. For a time, Steffes said she was concerned that longtime Lakes residents wouldn't like to see the old hotel's style copied -- but it turned out, most everyone has been supportive of what they've done.
"I don't think you can go wrong when you do something classic like that," she said.