Surety Hotel

Des Moines, Iowa | C.1913

Photo Credit: Daniel Kelleghan / DLR Group


Once the tallest building in the state, the Surety Hotel was constructed during an economic boom for the city of Des Moines, but it would cycle through a rolodex of names before finding the most befitting title. 

First known as the Hippee Building, the 12-story skyscraper was the namesake of the gentleman who constructed it – George B. Hippee.  While Mr. Hippee was popular for his civic contributions including the city’s first inter-urban railway, his name on a building appears to have been not “hip” enough. The original surname didn’t catch on, and the plaque above the entrance became a revolving door of multiple monikers from The Southern Surety Building to The Savings & Loan Building, until the new “Midland Building” name seemed to stick. 

100 years later, the old Midland was due for a round of updates and renovations. For more than a century, the structure had adapted to the changing needs of commercial offices, and in trying to be “hip” with the times, its unique interior detailing and early 19th Century decor became hidden decade-by-decade behind simple fixtures and plaster. 

So in 2017, a Chicago-based hotel group stepped in to renovate and reawaken the structure as the Surety Hotel. The architecturally awesome DLR Group was brought in to flaunt the historic interior and marry the 106-year-old *Beaux-Arts building with the Surety’s modern look – and boy did they blend it beautifully. 

The former banking hall was revitalized and reincarnated as the hotel’s lobby, allowing patrons to appreciate detailed colonnades, historic *transom windows and a restored original staircase as they check-in for their stay. 

While no longer Iowa’s highest view, the Surety just received another new name, as one of the “World’s Best New Hotels”. Turns out that even in its first iteration, this building was cool all along.

Written By: Seamus McMahon



This style is a true diva of design with a penchant for drama. Originating in 19th-century Paris, this style is the architectural equivalent of a French opera – ornate, elaborate, and utterly unapologetic. Picture colossal columns and sculpted nymphs holding court over grand entrances, as if inviting you to a ball you didn’t know you were attending.

Historically, the Beaux-Arts movement emerged during a time of cultural renaissance, blending classical elements of Louis XVI style, neoclassicism, and a touch of flamboyance. As the term itself translates to “Fine Arts,” it’s no wonder you’ll find detailed decorations enriching every element of these buildings. It was the Gilded Age’s answer to architectural showmanship, a style that didn’t just knock on the door; it threw a parade.

Transom Windows

In the architectural storybook, transom windows are the punctuation marks, the exclamation points that let in both light and a breath of fresh air. Perched above doorways or atop a horizontal beam, these charming details are sometimes better known as “transom lights.”

They were first found in medieval structures to add a touch of elegance. Once we hit the Renaissance era, they became the must-have accessory for doorways allowing a peek into the grandeur within. Though they come in all shapes and sizes, the primary identifier is a semi-circular shape.

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