Surety Hotel Des Moines Offers Historic Ambiance

Written by Lisa Waterman Gray

February 17, 2023
Home >> Travel >> Hotels and Resorts >> Surety Hotel Des Moines Offers Historic Ambiance

Looking for a great historic hotel with all the modern luxuries? Historic Surety Hotel Des Moines showcases the local neighborhood and welcomes you to feel the vibe on your next trip to Des Moines, Iowa.

I began photographing stunning light fixtures as I entered the historic Surety Hotel Des Moines lobby. Above me, more than a dozen narrow, rectangular light panels congregated along a curving metal structure. In the nearby lobby, various metals were used to create additional, one-of-a-kind tabletop lamps and wall-mounted fixtures.

Just inside my suite, cracked glass orbs complemented more glowing metal. White, clear, and metallic cylinders housed additional light fixtures in the spacious room.

One of many beautiful and unusual light fixtures at Surety Hotel, a historic hotel in Des Moines.

One of many beautiful and unusual light fixtures at Surety Hotel. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

Dark natural wood wrapped the beverage station and closet in the guest room. Floor-to-ceiling curtains flanked enormous windows, where a gorgeous sunset framed the courthouse. The massive bathroom offered plush towels and wall-spanning shower tile. A luxe countertop housed the sink. Vintage-look floor tile and a long ‘table’ contributed a 1920s vibe.

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The suite bathroom.

The suite bathroom had a distinctly retro vibe. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray.

Part of the Neighborhood

Contemporary amenities and nods to history merge throughout this pet-friendly hotel. After its 1913 completion, the 12-story, Beaux-Arts structure became known as the Midland Building. It later housed the Iowa Loan & Trust Company.

Today, Surety Hotel showcases local businesses, community makers, and artisans. Handcrafted pottery bears the signature of a local artist. Another local maker crafted a classy leather ‘do not disturb’ sign.  Names of local farmer partners appear on the restaurant menu. And tall lobby shelves display everything from t-shirts to cutting boards created by Des Moines-area artisans.

Local artists add one-of-a-kind design elements at this historic hotel in Des Moines.

The work of local artists adds one-of-a-kind design elements. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

Lobby renovation included refreshing the original vaulted, coffered ceiling. It complements cozy, upholstered, and leather furnishings and a broad fireplace. People pack this neighborhood ‘living room’ while enjoying cocktails and conversation each evening. Others fill the high-end, casual Mulberry Street Tavern, where I met my hosts.

Mulberry Street Tavern.

Mulberry Street Tavern combines cozy surroundings with delicious, fresh cuisine and cocktails. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray.

Following cocktails at the bar, we moved to a broad corner booth. Natural wood and leather created cozy surroundings with open kitchen views.  After we ordered, our welcoming and knowledgeable server set out multiple shareable dishes, from sauteed green beans and fresh fish to luscious desserts. The adjacent Surety Courtyard also welcomes guests in warmer weather.

Beginning the Day

Early the next morning, I grabbed complimentary coffee in the lobby. I later savored breakfast from the Surety Lounge Coffee Bar. The warm bowl included sauteed greens, crispy potato chunks, and cherry tomato halves. A big dollop of creamy avocado and a fried egg sat on top.

Breakfast in the hotel lobby at this historic hotel in Des Moines.

I enjoyed a delicious breakfast in the hotel lobby. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

After breakfast, I packed my car. My next stops were Des Moines’ funky East Village and the popular Pappajohn Sculpture Park.

Renovation and Recognition at this historic hotel in Des Moines

It’s been over two years since the 138-room Surety Hotel opened in November 2020. Aparium Hotel Group’s $40 million restoration included refurbishing the multi-story stairway to its original glory. They commemorated the building’s history with currency through green tile, exit signs, and copper.

By 2021, Travel + Leisure named Surety one of the world’s best new hotels. T+L featured it alongside historic homes-turned-hotels in New Orleans. Surety also ranked favorably against baroque buildings in Copenhagen and rainforest resorts in Mexico. 

A Lifestyle Brand

With the hotel’s neighborhood focus, live music fills the Surety Lounge on many Friday nights. Surety Hotel also offers Family & Pup Pics with Santa during the holiday season. Other options include cookie decorating with a local baker and a custom ornament workshop led by a local artist.

In addition, a Deck the Halls program features four holiday-themed studio king guestrooms. Deck the Halls guests also receive small boxes of holiday treats and a custom ornament by a local artist. 

Kansas City, Missouri’s Crossroads Hotel

Surety wasn’t the only Aparium hotel with a holiday guestroom program last year. In a ‘hot’ Kansas City neighborhood, Crossroads Hotel’s Shoppable Suites package reflected vendor partnerships from KC Night Market. Local skincare products, candles, and sweet treats await in each suite. Guests could choose presents and holiday cards before gift wrapping in the comfort of their own rooms.

Crossroads Hotel offers special events too. On a balmy October night, gigantic front doors remained open during a lively Dia de los Muertos celebration. A three-member mariachi band circulated through the crowd. A holiday ‘ofrenda’ display also transformed the check-in desk. Brightly painted skulls and skeletons appeared everywhere, and a special menu featured Mexican cuisine.

Crossroads Hotel created jaw-dropping Dia de los Muertos decor.

Crossroads Hotel created jaw-dropping Dia de los Muertos decor. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

Crossroads Hotel also draws guests to yoga and other classes. In pleasant weather, the open, airy rooftop bar pairs gorgeous downtown views and custom cocktails. 

A 1920s Vibe

Historic details abound at Crossroads Hotel, too. Painted tin ceilings decorate the Italian-inspired Lazia Restaurant. Original exterior brick walls and garage doors now accentuate the hotel lobby. More original, repurposed brick fills the lower-level lobby walls at check-in.

Period wallpaper decorates a bathroom in the Pendergast suite.

Period wallpaper decorates a bathroom in the Pendergast suite. Photo by Lisa Waterman Gray

In the hotel hallways, a dark blue carpet honors Pabst Brewing Depot, which occupied the building from the early 1900s. Local political boss Tom Pendergast later used the space for an office. According to legend, he also bootlegged liquor here as Prohibition arrived. Today, guests may also rent a multi-room apartment where Tom’s mother once lived.

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About Aparium Hotel Group

Surety Hotel and Crossroads Hotel are part of Aparium Hotel Group, LLC. The company focuses on creating premium accommodations amid historic spaces in previously underserved cities. With nine current hotels, three more should open this year. Each property becomes a brand unto itself, focused on ‘fitting’ the neighborhood where it operates.

Des Moines, Iowa, offers numerous options for historic accommodations. Let Wander With Wonder be your guide when planning your next trip to Iowa or staying in one of the country’s many historic hotels.

Looking for a great historic hotel with all the modern luxuries? Historic Surety Hotel Des Moines showcases the local neighborhood and welcomes you to feel the vibe on your next trip to Des Moines, Iowa.


Surety Hotel Des Moines Offers Historic Ambiance

Written by Lisa Waterman Gray

A Kansas City-area resident, Lisa Waterman Gray has savored Quebec’s finest cuisine, ridden in a pickup before a Kansas buffalo herd, and toured natural Arizona landmarks with Native American guides. In June 2011, 18 months of driving, research, and writing ended with national publication of Lisa’s book, An Explorer’s Guide: Kansas. During October 2014, she was a U.S. delegate for Terre Madre and Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy – a conference for Slow Food International. Lisa has written for Dreamscapes Travel & Lifestyle (a Canadian magazine), USA, Midwest Living, four AAA magazines, and other clients. Visit her online at

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