Mulberry Street Tavern, with its heavy wood accents, occupies the southeast corner of the building and can be seen from both Mulberry Street and Sixth Avenue. Photo by Joe Crimmings

Walk past the lobby of Des Moines’ newest downtown hotel toward the solarium and on the left you’ll see a structure not typically found in modern buildings: a circular, weathered metal boiler stack that rises through the ceiling, hugging the exterior of the high-rise portion of the building. 

“I just love that it adds a bit of character,” said Allison Streu, general manager of the Surety Hotel, which opened its doors for business at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11. 

The 12-story building at 206 Sixth Ave. underwent a $40 million renovation that included preserving historic features like a main staircase with ornate iron railings and marble and terrazzo floors, vault doors and hardwood maple floors. Above the building’s main entryway remain the words “Savings & Loan Building.”

Chicago-based Aparium Hotel Group purchased the building in 2017 and transformed it into a 137-room boutique hotel with restaurant and bar.

The hotel group, known for its renovation of historic buildings, had been trying to get into the Des Moines market for several years, Streu said. 

“This was one of the last historic buildings downtown that was actually available,” said Streu, who grew up in Granger. “When the opportunity came up to get involved with this building, they jumped at the chance.”

Construction of the structure, originally known as the Hippee Building, began around 1911. When completed in 1913, the Hippee Building was the tallest in Des Moines.  

For years, the building housed finance-related businesses including the Southern Surety Co., which was located in the building for more than 20 years. Des Moines Savings and Loan purchased the structure in 1947 and after a rebranding in the 1980s, called the property the Midland Building. 

The building’s renovation has taken more than two years to complete. Today, workers were putting finishing touches on the copper roof that covers a portion of the solarium, an addition to the building. Also, finishing touches were being put on the Presidential Suite, whose restroom walls are lined with marble.

The street-level Mulberry Street Tavern is visible from the sidewalks along Mulberry and Sixth. Originally the restaurant was going to be open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunches. Hours were curtailed because of the pandemic, said Marque Collins, executive chef.

The restaurant’s menu is “a lot of cornerstone dishes,” Collins said. “A good percentage of the menu will change with the season. We’ll always do a pasta, but in the spring it may be a ramp pesto, and in the summer it turns into a ratatouille or a summer squash ragout.”

Mulberry Street Tavern’s hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It will begin serving brunch on Nov. 28.

Related articles: $40 million renovation of Hippee Building complete

Hippee Building billed as ‘absolutely fireproof’ when it opened in 1913 in downtown Des Moines

The Elbert Files: The Hippee Building

The boiler stack that ran up the outside of the 12-story building at 206 Sixth Ave. remains as part of an addition to the structure that now is home to the Surety Hotel and Mulberry Street Tavern. Photo by Joe Crimmings