Alexander Hotel gets fresh look

By Lucy Rodenberg

One of McGregor’s “Grand Old Ladies” is receiving a fresh look. The Alexander Hotel, which is showing the effects of time, is receiving repairs to the porch roof at the front of the stately brick building.

The hotel, built for Charles I. Lewis, was designed by architect Hugo Schick of Schick and Roth of La Crosse. Schick was one of the best known architects of the northwest and was born in northern Austria. After graduating with a degree in architecture in Vienna, he came to America in 1880 where he first settled in New York City, later coming to La Crosse in 1886.

The Lewis Hotel’s foundation was laid in 1899 and the hotel was built by John Moss at a cost of $521,000, with an additional $4,000 to $5,000 for its furnishings. At that time, McGregor had nine other hotels and several homes that provided room and board to the many settlers going west.

The hotel had 30 rooms, with a dining room named the “Lotus Dining Room” after the many lotus water lilies found along the Mississippi. The building also had an ornate barroom that added its own special atmosphere, as did the gracious furnishings that reflected the warm hospitality of yesteryear.

The Alexander Hotel has had several owners throughout its lifetime. Known first as The Lewis Hotel from 1899 to 1902, it became known as The Pocket City Hotel from 1903 to 1913. This was when McGregor was known for a time as the Pocket City, as it is nestled between the bluffs and the Mississippi. Another change came in about 1914 when a Mr. Zimmerman purchased the hotel, and yet another change came when it became the Scenic Hotel in 1930. By 1986, the building had several apartments and 14 rooms.

It became the Alexander Hotel in 1987. Corporate partners at that time, Deb Deluhery and Bob Myers, changed the name to honor the town’s founder, Alexander MacGregor. They also did some renovation of the second floor. Three years before, Brenda Trudo began managing the Scenic Valley Cafe, a coffee shop on the first floor, with a restaurant operating there also. In 1989, Ringling’s Bar was operating there, with the Cellar Bar in the basement of the hotel. In 1996, the hotel owners were Art and Delainie Davis. In 2000, Sam Calabrese, Angie Hundt and Barbara and Terry Davis were also connected with the hotel.

Today, the Alexander is undergoing changes that will greatly improve its “face,” as present owner Luis Maguina plans on doing necessary repair to allow the re-painting of the façade, with possibly more work to be done in the future to preserve the building.

Maguina, originally from Peru, purchased the hotel in 2006 and specializes in Mexican and Peruvian foods, along with American classics like burgers and fries. He said he is “really happy with Iowa and especially this country, as it gives me the opportunity to build a future.”

The above information is not the complete story of the Alexander Hotel, but gives a glimpse into some of those connected with the building that has withstood the passing of time for over 100 years. Credited with being one of the few buildings in town that is used for its original use today, the Alexander Hotel continues to add chapters to its life and to the chapters of McGregor’s history.

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