Monday, October 07, 2013

Sleeping with Dvorak (and the Bily clocks)

If you're planning a visit to northeast Iowa during the prime leaf-viewing season, almost upon us, have I got a deal for you --- Spillville's Speakeasy Inn: Seven en suite guest rooms with a restaurant and bar below. All for a mere $239,900.

I happened on this opportunity in a "Unique House Sampler"  this weekend over at one of my favorite blogs, "Old House Dreams." Years ago, in a different life, I had lunch here --- not that long after the old building had been rescued and restored. It was a little more atmospheric then and wasn't called "Speakeasy." But it's been a while. 

If you want to see the full listing, it's here at Zillow. A few more pictures, too.

Surely you know about Spillville, a beautiful village of some 360 people along the Turkey River in Winneshiek County within spitting distance (if you can spit 12 miles) of Decorah. 

Antonin Dvorak summered here during 1893 at the urging of his secretary, Josef Kovarik, finding inspiration in the beautiful landscape among his fellow Czechs. You can read more about that visit and his continuing influence in this 1993 New York Times article.

Dvorak and his family lived just up the street from the inn on the second floor of a building that now houses the Bily Clocks Museum. Viewing the Bily Clocks is another Iowa tourism tradition. There's a Dvorak exhibit there, too.

The village is crowned by St. Wenceslaus Church, where Dvorak reportedly played the old organ (still in use) for Mass.

The inn itself was built during 1871 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After many years of use for commercial ventures, it sat empty for 20 years, then was rescued and restored in 1983, not long before I had lunch there. Renewed again during 2002, when an harmonious two-story brick-faced addition was made to the rear, it has changed ownership a couple of times since. The bar and restaurant currently are closed, but the seven guest suites remain available. You can read more on the Speakeasy Inn Web site

The barrel-vaulted cellars, where the bar is located, are among the more interesting parts of the building. Local lore identifies these as tunnels that once led elsewhere, but most likely they were just what they remain, barrel-vaulted cellars.

If you miss this opportunity, you can't say now that I didn't tell you about it.

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