Our Town Strawberry Point: Inside the town's historic (and haunted?) hotel

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STRAWBERRY POINT, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) - In one of the town’s oldest buildings but a structure that tourists target, Doug Schmidt knows his mission of owning and operating the Franklin Hotel is a balance between the old and what people really want in a room.

The Franklin Hotel, in Strawberry Point, first opened in 1902. The Schmidts have owned the property since 1989.

“We originally wanted to restore all of the rooms without those amenities,” said Schmidt. “No flatscreen televisions. No showers in the rooms or anything like that. But we found out, a few years after we got that, that we had to do that. The modern mixed with the old and we come up with I think you call ‘a step back but with the amenities to be comfortable while you stay’.”

Doug and his wife, Christine, purchased the 115-year-old Franklin back in 1989. This cornerstone at the northeast corner of Highways 3 and 13 is a landmark in a town known for the world’s largest fiberglass strawberry.

“The biggest thing that we get out of it is the preservation of one of Northeast Iowa’s most historic buildings,” Schmidt said amid the tour of the hotel’s 11 overnight rooms and five apartments on the second floor, just after a flight up the renovated stairs.

A vintage lobby welcomes a person, with a bar and banquet room on the left and a full-service restaurant on the right and behind the lobby and stairwell. Schmidt makes it a point for people not to ignore the first element you would see.

The porch.

“The most amazing part of the building is the porch out front and how it stayed plum and straight for 115 years,” said Schmidt. “It’s still just as straight as is it was. With iron beams underneath and that was a technology in 1902. The staircase going upstairs is a wonderfully restored piece of furniture.”

Now that Strawberry Point is in the summer season, the business also picks up for The Franklin. The city of about 1,200 is a Clayton County gateway, pulling travelers a little closer to the Mississippi River and the scenic bluffs that overlook it.

The Franklin does have one usual element in its history. Talk about ghosts, going back to a tale about a ghost named “Lily”. Doug describes her as a “female ghost” and a 1920s prostitute who worked there.

“We have a lot of ghost hunters,” said Schmidt. “We’ve probably entertained at least a half dozen groups here, setting up their equipment and hunting for ghosts. They have said they’ve seen things. I’m a little skeptical.”