In 1846, William Robinson saw a need for a hotel in the growing town of Benton's Port. He hired some Mormon craftsmen, who had come from Nauvoo, Illinois, looking for work. These men built the hotel in 6 months, finishing in November. Iowa became a state that same year, in December. Mr. Robinson named it the Ashland House. He owned it for 10 1/2 years.
When the Mason family arrived in Bentonsport in 1857, they purchased the hotel and renamed it the Phoenix Hotel, because it was a new beginning for them. During the Civil War, the building was also used as a hospital and a station on the Underground Railroad. Lewis Mason died in 1867 and his son, George became the owner. George's wife, Rebecca, and their daughter, Mary Frances (Fannie), ran the hotel as a boarding house till Fannie died in 1951. (In 1913, Fannie had rented the hotel to a Tuberculosis hospital company, but the town objected to them "experimenting" on their patients by trying to cure them with pennicillin. So the hospital left and moved to Des Moines to a larger facility.) The grand hotel had stayed in the Mason family for 99 years.
From 1951 to 1956, the Downing family lived here as their house.
In 1956, the Redhead family, from Des Moines, bought the old hotel and turned it into, first a museum, and then a Bed and Breakfast. There were ten small rooms on the second floor and a tavern room on the first floor. They served meals to the public in the large dining room. The Bentonsport Library was in a room behind the dining room. The Redheads bought the old railroad station in Bonaparte and rebuilt it next to the Main building and ran it as a little store. In 1972, they put the old hotel on the Register of Historic Places as "The Mason House Inn". The Readheads owned the place for 33 years. They sold it to the McDermott family in 1989.
At that time, there was still no electricity or running water. They were still using the outhouses and a wood burning stove. The McDermotts reconfigured the ten bedrooms on the third floor into five larger rooms, each with it's own bathroom. They turned the tavern room on the first floor into a bedroom with bathroom. They turned the little store into two bedrooms, each with a bathroom. They turned the Library room into a modern kitchen. The McDermotts ran the B&B for 12 years, then sold it in 2001 to the Hanson family.
The Hansons had moved to Iowa from Dayton, Ohio. Chuck had been in the Air Force for 25 years and had retired and they wanted to buy a small farm. The Inn was on the same web site as the farm, so they went and looked at it also. They thought they could do the B&B thing for 4 or 5 years, like an Air Force assignment, and if they did not like it, they would move on. After 14 years, we are still here. In 2006, we bought an old railcar caboose and brought it to sit next to the General Store bedroom building. We outfitted it be a bedroom with bathroom and kitchenette, and called it the Caboose Cottage. It is the only room with a TV. We enjoy running the B&B and even have our own chickens for fresh eggs with breakfast!
The old hotel was sold intact each time, so much of it looks the same way it did in the 1800s. The beds and dressers and rocking chairs are 90% original to the Mason family. If you like antiques, and a feeling of visiting your Great-Grandma's house, you will love it here!