Amazing history and hospitality awaits guests at Fort Madison's elegant Kingsley Inn and Guest House

When it comes to restaurants and hotels, I have the same view on things. Sure, you can find a decent meal and quality service at a chain restaurant but if given the choice between a chain and a locally owned one-of-a-kind restaurant, I'm going to pick that local favorite just about every time. The same can be said for hotels. If given the choice between your standard chain hotel and a unique bed and breakfast or boutique hotel that might have some good history to it, I'm of course going to prefer those one-of-a-kind accommodations.


Such is the case with the beautiful, historic, and quite opulent Kingsley Inn and Guest House in Fort Madison.

The outside of the building kind of reminds me of wandering through the French Quarter in New Orleans with all kinds of beautiful Victorian architectural features.

Fort Madison is in Lee County in far Southeast Iowa and the county is often referred to as the "Florida of Iowa" because it jets down a bit (not unlike Florida). With a population just over 10,000 (including or not including the State Penitentiary?) , it is one of Iowa's oldest cities as it resides right along the mighty Mississippi River. There's a lot of history in this town and I'm sure that if some of the walls in many of the beautiful old buildings and homes could talk, they'd have some pretty amazing stories to share.

The Kingsley Inn is celebrating its 30th year this year (it was founded in 1990), though the building itself dates back to the 1860's. Over the decades, it's housed a number of different entities from a barbershop and a distillery to a wallpaper store and laundry business. A nice but brief summary of the building's history can be found on the website or in the room manual that is in each room.

The Kinglsey is really hitting its stride as one of Iowa's best boutique hotels. New ownership took over in 2018 and brought in new management. Chi Eastin is the new manager and is truly doing a superb job. It's not easy being a hotel manager these days with COVID-19 continuing to run wild.

Chi is a local native and you can tell her stewardship of the property and business is more than just a job - it's a labor of love. And it is easy to love this property. It's absolutely gorgeous inside and outside.


You'll enter in the west side of the building. There's plenty of complimentary parking on both the west and north sides of the building.

Every reservation will get their own personalized pass-code for both their individual room and for the building itself. It's a nice modern safety touch for an otherwise historic building.

Inside, you'll make your way through a small vestibule. From there, head past a luggage cart and a comfortable love seat and into the hotel's gorgeous lobby.

The historic touches are everywhere. From beautiful old woodwork and elaborate lighting to a handsome baby grand piano and beautiful artwork.

As someone who enjoys old maps and old pictures, there's plenty throughout the building.


There is a front desk where you check in. It is part of an enclosure where the hotel's main office is. It's obviously quite beautiful.

There's a display that provides visitors some good local suggestions of places to visit and things to do. Since Lee County borders both Illinois and Missouri, there are some tri-state tourism partnerships working together there. Iowa Adventurer of course offers suggestions and you can read about my previous visits to Lee County and nearby Van Buren County for ideas.

Of course, COVID-19 is continuing to rear its ugly head and there is a small table with hand santizer and some of the things that the staff is doing to limit the possibility of exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, they are being especially careful not to book rooms on any given night that are next door to each other (for added social distancing) and the room cleaners are waiting 24 hours after a guest checks out before going into the room, in case there is something lingering.

Right off the lobby is a larger ballroom that can be rented out for any number of different kinds of events. Before COVID-19, the Kingsley was utilized regularly for smaller wedding celebrations. I'm sure it could be a great space for graduation gatherings, dinners, anniversary parties, birthday parties, and much more.

On the other side of the lobby is a bar and restaurant, River Rocks Bar & Grill. They have a full bar and a nice menu of food choices.

There is also various seating options which includes views of either the Mississippi River and the nearby train tracks or your favorite sports team on big screen televisions.

Based on this sign I found out front, it looks like they are doing a special grill-out each Friday. You do not have to be a hotel guest to enjoy the bar or restaurant.

This sheet of paper I found in my room gives an idea as to what kind of menu they offer.

The second and third floors include all of the guest rooms. There is a beautiful staircase that will take you up to either floor or you can ride the gorgeous glass elevator.

The hallways leading to the rooms are carpeted and have the same patterned wall coverings that add some extra charm. There is nice white doors and trim throughout.

On one floor, I spotted a table with some brochures about local attractions.

I also located an occasional stand where you could get some hand sanitizer, some water, or an ice bucket.

I popped into the second floor parlor room. It would be a great place to kick back to relax and enjoy a game of billiards or watch some television on the big screen.