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Former 'front door to Amana Colonies' moves $131,500 closer to restoration

Upper South Hotel project receives grant from Save America's Treasures program

The Upper South Hotel in South Amana, seen circa 1920, was built in 1884 to serve passengers of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. A project to restore the historic site recently received a $131,500 grant from the Save America’s Treasures program. (Amana Colonies Historical Sites Foundation)
The Upper South Hotel in South Amana, seen circa 1920, was built in 1884 to serve passengers of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. A project to restore the historic site recently received a $131,500 grant from the Save America’s Treasures program. (Amana Colonies Historical Sites Foundation)
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The Amana Colonies Historical Sites Foundation has received a $131,500 grant from the national Save America’s Treasures program for the continued restoration of the Upper South Hotel in South Amana.

“This is very exciting news for the Amana Sites Foundation and for the Amana Colonies as a whole,” said Laura Hoover, director of the foundation, in a news release. “While the strength of the Amana Colonies lies in the completeness of the whole, the Upper South Hotel stands out for both its size and its function in the colonies.”

The hotel was built in 1884 to serve passengers of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, which operated a depot just south of the hotel. Passengers ranging from businessmen to tourists and Hawkeye fans stayed at the hotel through the years, bringing the outside world to the communal colonies.

“In many ways, the Upper South Hotel was the front door to the Amana Colonies,” Hoover said.

The grant is part of $12.6 million in Save America’s Treasures grants announced this month by the National Park Service to assist 41 historic properties and collections in 23 states. The park service awarded the grants in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Amana Colonies Historical Sites Foundation is in the midst of a project to mitigate damage to the Upper South Hotel following years of neglect by a former private owner. The site had fallen into disrepair, with no roof, broken and rotting windows, and brick damage from overgrown vegetation. Fifty-four historic windows are being restored, and damaged bricks and mortar are being repaired on the exterior.

The first phase of the project, funded in part by a grant from the State Historical Society of Iowa, focused on replacing the roof. Future phases will focus on the interior spaces, grounds and auxiliary buildings.

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“This is a project that the Amana Colonies Historical Sites Foundation took on at the urging of the local community,” Hoover said. “... To have the National Park Service’s support in this effort is invaluable.”

The Save America’s Treasures program was established in 1998 with the goal of preserving nationally significant historic properties and museum collections for future generations of Americans.

From 1999 to 2017, more than 1,300 projects received $328 million for preservation and conservation work. Requiring a dollar-for-dollar private match, these grants leveraged more than $377 million in private investment and contributed more than 16,000 jobs to local and state economies.

For more information about the Save America’s Treasures program, visit http://go.nps.gov/sat.

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