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Regional travel: 165-year-old mill weaves a new chapter as a boutique hotel in Amana, Iowa

Regional travel: 165-year-old mill weaves a new chapter as a boutique hotel in Amana, Iowa

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The hotel in Omaha's Blackstone district is thought to be the original home of the sandwich.

I’m a traveler who wants a lodging experience as interesting as the destination. The richer the history, the better. The Amana Society delivers on both accounts with its 165-year-old woolen mill, now a boutique hotel.

The transformation of the historic factory in Amana, Iowa, into Hotel Millwright was completed in September 2020. Opening during a pandemic turned out better than expected for the destination property.

“We’re off the beaten path and doing fantastic,” Lucas Hayes, sales manager, said last spring. “And it’s only going to get better.”

A good share of guests are coming from within a 60-mile radius of this east central Iowa community, the largest in the Amana Colonies. Many guests have commented “we wanted to get out of the house,” Hayes says.

Amana is, in normal times, a popular destination for escorted bus tours. The pandemic pretty much shut down tourism for more than a year but with COVID concerns lifting, visitors are returning. For those eager for a change of scenery without the crowds, this is an ideal getaway spot.

Hotel Millwright pays homage to the original millwrights who designed and maintained the Amana Woolen Mill, which still operates elsewhere in the town. Weaving has been a tradition in the Colonies since 1855 — the year German immigrants settled here.

The original mill operated from 13 buildings; six remained when the Amana Society started looking for a way to bring the unused factory back to life.

The main building of the Hotel Millwright houses 65 guest rooms and three suites; there also are two studios in a freestanding building. Event space is abundant; the Merino Loft is the jewel with its tall windows, exposed brick and warm structural timbers and flooring.

The hotel’s decor is a blend of mill artifacts and memorabilia, exposed mechanical equipment and high-grade modern industrial finishes. The mill’s trademark indigo blue stars in a palette of blues, grays, taupe and white. The lobby — once the mill’s boiler room — includes the base of the factory’s signature smoke stack with a cozy fireplace. The vibe is refined yet casual.

The Millwright offers a fast casual menu in the Indigo Room bar and cafe, and a fine-dining experience in a more intimate space.

The Electric Thread whiskey bar serves craft cocktails from 2 to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The bar top is an instant conversation piece. It features hand tools and small gears and parts captured within a 2-inch layer of clear urethane.

High-scoring room amenities include:

  • Beverage station with single-serving coffee maker, coffee pods and tea, sugar and cream.
  • Room-darkening shades.
  • LED lighted vanity mirrors.
  • Pillow-top mattresses.
  • Tap-card entry to rooms.
  • Electric vehicle charging stations.

My favorite guest experience? The Indigo Room’s oatmeal cakes (that I have failed to replicate at home).

The hotel’s brand image also bowled me over. It’s beautifully executed, from keycards, to door hangers, to drink tickets and coasters. Every art element has a direct tie to the mill. Some of it is designed to make you smile. The “do-not-disturb” door hangers with vintage scenes and witty phrases are the best!


Hotel Millwright is situated near numerous shops, restaurants, craft breweries and wineries in this very walkable community.

Amana has a public golf course and a lake with a path for walking, biking and jogging.

This is a good location if you’re going to an Iowa football game. The stadium is 30 minutes away.

Advance reservations are recommended. Call 319-838-5015 or visit; 402-444-1094

Twitter: @cchristenOWH

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