Highlighting local talent through midcentury elegance
Stepping through the heavy glass doors into the Surety Hotel lobby, you might expect to find yourself in a much larger metropolitan area. The beautifully restored Beaux-Arts-style building is a dead ringer for the type of spot that’s a dime a dozen in cities like Chicago and New York. But in Des Moines, the former Iowa Loan & Trust Co. building is a one-of-a-kind gem.
Built in 1913, the Midland Building — the Surety Hotel’s former moniker — was the tallest building in the state, though now it’s not even the tallest on the block. It still stands out, though, with the exterior’s sandy-colored brick set against the classic white marble carvings. Inside, many of the building’s original elements have been preserved as part of a $40 million renovation by Chicago’s Aparium Hotel Group.
The Surety Hotel connection to local makers and creatives carries through in many elements on the property, like hand-thrown ceramics, custom candles, local coffee and more. Artful touches can be found throughout the hotel as well: A bedazzled taxidermied raccoon hangs perched above the host stand at the property’s on-site restaurant and sculptural light fixtures draw your eye toward the lobby’s coffered ceilings. Much of the hotel’s art is sourced from the local Olson-Larsen Gallery and made by artist Molly Spain. Upstairs, pressed leather “do not disturb” signs made by local outfit Fontenelle Supply Co. swing from door knobs.
Just off Des Moines’ historic Court District
If you’re looking to explore the city, there are few places more centrally located than the Surety. The hotel sits at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Mulberry Street in the heart of downtown Des Moines, putting you walking distance from pretty much anything you’d want to do in the area. This neighborhood is full of history, and the Surety is no different. The hotel’s name itself is a nod to Des Moines’ role as a major player in the early insurance industry.
The surrounding area has dozens of restaurants, bars, shops and more, so there is no shortage of fun to be had just steps from the hotel. Here are some things to do not far from the Surety:
- About a 10-minute walk from the Surety you’ll find the renowned Pappajohn Sculpture Park. No, this popular spot doesn’t have anything to do with the pizza franchise. Instead, the 4.4-acre park features more than two dozen works of contemporary art by household names like Yayoi Kusama, Robert Indiana and more.
- Grab a craft beer at one of the metro’s popular breweries. Find local standbys at Confluence Brewing Co., just south of downtown after a beautiful walk around Gray’s Lake. Or sample sours and other smaller batch experimental brews at Lua Brewing or Big Grove Brewery.
- Take a quick jaunt across the Des Moines River to wander the historic East Village. This neighborhood at the base of the Iowa Capitol is one of the city’s most popular shopping districts.
- If you’re into farmers markets, this is for you: The Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market has been included in many best-of national round-ups in various media outlets over the past 10 years. From May through October, dozens of vendors line Court Avenue and surrounding streets with fresh produce, prepared food, seasonal flowers and more.
- Catch a Broadway show or see touring talent at the Des Moines Civic Center. Most productions require advance tickets, but many also have day-of ticket lotteries.
- Tour the gold-domed Iowa State Capitol building for a peek at the local legislature. Don’t miss a stop inside the State Law Library to see a setup like something straight out of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Short on space but not style
What the Surety Hotel’s standard rooms lack in the square footage you might find at other Midwestern hotels, they make up for in impeccable midcentury-modern style. The hotel’s gleaming marble halls lead you to 138 rooms decked out in artfully restored hardwood floors and rich, mahogany-hued built-in shelving. But the bathrooms are the real show. That’s where black and white tiles pair with emerald green accents to create a sultry spin on a classic aesthetic.
All rooms are equipped with complimentary Wi-Fi, blackout curtains, fluffy bathrobes and 55-inch flat-screen HDTVs with online streaming capabilities. Each room also has a mini-fridge as well as a smattering of locally made snacks and beverages for purchase.
You can book the following types of rooms at the Surety Hotel:
- Standard Guestrooms: The Surety offers standard rooms with either a king or two queen beds. While still luxurious, these rooms are on the smaller size, varying from 309 to 348 square feet, with the beds and bathrooms as their main amenities. In this layout, the two queen guestroom also includes a small table and chair.
- Deluxe Guestrooms: With slightly more space at 321 square feet, the Deluxe King and Surety King guest rooms are the ones to book if you’re looking for courthouse or skyline views that don’t break the bank. For even more space at 407 square feet, the Studio King offers a lounging couch to take a load off after a busy day. And if you really need to spread out, the Corner Studio King features 506 square feet of space, including a sitting area with sofa and writing desk, making it the perfect working retreat.
- Suites: The Surety Hotel has two suite options. The 460-square-foot Junior King Suite boasts top-floor views with separate living and sleeping spaces. The Marchande Suite serves as the hotel’s presidential suite, with 951 square feet of space and a stunning wraparound corner view of the Polk County Courthouse. Here guests will find a stately entrance foyer, kitchenette, spacious living space, dining space for five and a double-vanity bathroom.
Its eateries receive top billing, but there are lots of amenities that make the Surety a luxurious place to stay.
Mulberry Street Tavern: The Surety’s on-site restaurant serves British tavern fare with a worldly spin in an intimate, wood-paneled atmosphere. The dinner menu offers appetizers like Scotch eggs and Spanish octopus; entrees include cauliflower steak, Skuna Bay salmon and the MST double burger — the self-proclaimed “best burger in Des Moines.” The brunch standout dishes are avocado toast and shakshuka made from locally sourced ingredients. For a nightcap, sidle up to the bar for a classic cocktail or take your drinks to the hotel lounge to soak in the ambiance on a lush velvet couch.
Surety Courtyard: The Surety’s private courtyard space serves as a seasonal extension of the lounge in the hotel’s lobby with drinks, light bites and occasional live music and DJ sets during the summer months. On the courtyard menu, you’ll find snacks and shareables like spring vegetable fritters, shrimp ceviche and a falafel plate alongside a selection of craft cocktails and boozy slushies.
Coffee bar: Guests get a complimentary coffee each morning in the hotel’s lobby lounge. The hotel brews beans from local, Black-owned roastery BLK & Bold.
Gym: The property has an on-site gym with a variety of machines and weight lifting equipment.
Pets: The Surety Hotel is pet friendly and allows up to two dogs per guest room with a $75 fee at checkin. The hotel also offers pet amenities like treats, beds and bowls for furry travelers.
Event and meeting space: Given the size of the historic building, this hotel has plenty of room to gather. The Surety has a 200-person ballroom that’s a popular venue for weddings as well as two beautifully appointed meeting rooms that can be booked as needed.
Parking: Self-parking is available at a nearby lot for $20 per night.