A view without a room

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The McGregor riverfront took on a different look the last two weeks, as the decades-old Holiday Shores Motel was torn down, leaving behind an unhindered view of the Mississippi. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

Holiday Shores Motel torn down, leaving memories behind


By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

The McGregor riverfront took on a different look the last two weeks, as the decades-old Holiday Shores Motel was torn down, leaving behind an unhindered view of the Mississippi. 

As news of the tear-down spread via the North Iowa Times Facebook page, many current and former residents, as well as visitors to the area, took to the social networking site to voice their thoughts. As of Sept. 4, the original post had reached nearly 15,000 people, was shared 111 times and accumulated nearly 40 comments, with people sharing memories and speculating about the future of the property. 

“Lots of memories being torn down, but we understand the motel needed much more care and had gotten into disrepair,” commented Greg Luther, whose parents opened Holiday Shores in April 1966. At the time, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Luther, along with Greg, had operated the Hotel Scenic in McGregor for 10 years. 

According to the April 21, 1966 edition of the North Iowa Times, Holiday Shores was built on the site of La Vonne’s Gift Shop, which was destroyed by fire on Aug. 28, 1965. Bill Denning was the contractor/builder. 

“The present structure consists of nine units, to which 12 additional units will be built this year,” stated the article. “These units will be built on the former site of the Scenic Motel trailers, which have been sold recently.” 

The article went on to describe the motel’s appearance, noting, “The rich butternut paneling of each unit is accentuated by the red carpeting and white draw draperies and white bedspreads. There is either one or two double beds in a room.” 

“The motel was named after the Holiday Shores motel in Daytona Beach where we vacationed during Christmas break,” Greg mentioned. He recalled summers spent running electrical, TV cable and telephone wiring. One of the family’s dogs—burned by the fire in the gift shop—was buried in front of the motel office window, he said. 

Delmar and Betty Gingerich took ownership of the Holiday Shores in 1969 and lived at the motel until 1993. Management was later turned over to their son and daughter-in-law, Dan and Jill Gingerich. 

“I’m heartbroken to see it all come down,” Betty lamented. “We met a lot of interesting people and friends who became like family.” 

“One couple from Rockford, Ill., came every Friday and Saturday night from spring until late October,” Betty continued. “I would mark out number 19 on the first floor of the riverfront building for them for the season. They had beautiful roses at home and would always bring some and leave them in their room for me.” 

Another couple, from New Hampton, came every weekend and fished in front of the motel, Betty added. She still recalls their room number: 9.

One of the highlights of the Gingerichs’ ownership—and one of Betty’s biggest memories—was the motel’s three-story addition in 1974. 

They also added the indoor pool. According to an article in the June 5, 1974 North Iowa Times, the pool was “the only indoor swimming pool in any area motel. The nearest one to here is located in Decorah. It also sports a therapeutic pool—also to be found in no other motel closer than Decorah.” 

Betty said, when Delmar suggested adding the pool, she was unsure of the idea. 

“I cannot swim,” she remarked, “but the kids and grandkids enjoyed it. I’m glad we did it.” 

Judging from the Facebook comments, others were happy to have access to the pool, as well. 

Many recalled swimming at the pool for just $1. 

As one man said, “When I was a kid, going to the pool and hot tub was the best place to be in the middle of winter.” 

Another follower commented that he helped build the new addition. His payment was free admittance to the pool for life. 

“I was a regular at that indoor pool for five to six years,” he said. “Delmar and Betty were always so nice to us kids, unless, of course, we got a little wild. Great memories!” 

Other locals recalled working at the motel over the years. 

“We hired a lot of young people. They were good workers,” Betty said, mentioning how workers helped clean rooms, mow the lawn and paint. They even helped pick raspberries at the Gingerichs’ daughter’s nearby farm. 

Most notably, the Holiday Shores was known for a view of the Mississippi River that couldn’t be beat. 

“We used to advertise that we were the closest motel to the main channel,” Betty said. “If anyone could show us one closer, they’d get a free room.” 

It never happened, she noted. 

Betty said running the motel was an interesting business. The Gingeriches dealt with flooding and fire, including a blaze on the third floor, in room 36, a space Betty described as a nice corner room with a beautiful view. Three rooms suffered burn damage, while another four on the third floor faced smoke damage. All the rooms below, along with the pool area, had water damage, Betty said. 

There were also several scary train derailments. 

“One time, a train came around the corner and piled up out front,” Betty said, adding that, with their daughter immobile from a recent car accident, they prayed the train wouldn’t hit the motel. 

Another derailment occurred at night. 

“We slept in the corner, where the street went by, and it just missed our bedroom,” she said. “It missed the gas tank and our pick-up, but it tore the track up terribly. No one could get in or out [with a vehicle] for a day or two.” 

Although winters could be skimpy, Betty said the family was proud the motel remained open 24/7 through the colder months. Hunters and ice fishermen kept them busy enough, she noted. 

“I was sorry to hear it was closed this winter for the first time,” she said. 

The Holiday Shores was permanently closed in June, when the motel, which was most recently owned by Mark Rhodes, was purchased by Trilogy Partners, LLC. 

The North Iowa Times will provide more information about the future of the site as plans are officially released.

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