My September 2020 road trip brought me through Grinnell Iowa, where I attended the eponymous college. The town of around 9,000, situated between Iowa City and Des Moines along the I-80 corridor, has taken a beating from the double whammy of COVID19 and a derecho in August that wrought widespread destruction of roofs, windows, and trees. The town retains, however, one of the most commercially vibrant streetscapes I’ve seen for a town of its size. The Hansen’s Danish Maid Bakery that was responsible for a double digit percentage of my calorie consumption in college has closed, but the vintage neon sign remains preserved in the lobby of the Strand Theater on Main Street. I stopped into Peace Tree Brewing, a new addition since my departure (Matterport model here). I also dined with an old friend at Prairie Canary across the street, where we enjoyed the bounty of an award-winning burger night (no Matterport of this space yet!).
Finally, I stayed at the Hotel Grinnell. A 1920’s middle school, the building had been converted into municipal offices with a chonky 1970’s addition, but it retained a lot of its historic elements. Proprietor Angela Harrington, who also operates the Highlander Hotel in Iowa City, dipped from the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce to try her hand in the hospitality space. Hotel rooms boasted original hard maple floors, tall windows letting in a ton of autumnal sunshine, and some charming touches alluding to the building’s history. In a previous life, when dinosaurs roamed the prairie and called each other on flip phones, I interned in this building at the offices of the ancient and honourable Poweshiek Iowa Development.
Visible in this model is Grinnell State Bank, located in a charmingly preserved old building that was renovated in an edgy, industrial moderne chic. The bank is still open– and has expanded to include more branches, in an age of massive banking consolidation. GSB’s Tony Jones apologized for not being able to host a Matterport tour of the space, which the bank’s insurance doesn’t allow (I imagine it’d be nice to have a thoroughly detailed floor plan if you were trying to rob a bank), but thanked us for the interest. I recall fondly my gold ATM-only debit card from 2008.