From the early days of the 1800’s with early American pioneers, to the British invaders in the war of 1812, to the modern travelers of Team Goodvin… it seems everyone wants a piece of Fort Madison. Monie and JayJay made the trek to SE-Iowa and got a major dose of the hospitality everywhere we went. Let’s check into the Kingsley Inn, right on the banks of the great river and walking distance to so much Fort Madison has to offer.
From the moment we checked in, the staff of the Kingsley Inn made us feel right at home. We were shown to our room while given a history of the property by the employees of the inn. We were amazed to hear that the Kingsley hasn’t been a hotel until recently. Though a an old historic brick building, it has been had many businesses call it home in its long history, including offices and a laundry establishment. However, the current owners and operators have done an amazing job creating the perception that the Kingsley has always been a hotel. The Victorian decor in the lobby, halls, staircases, and rooms with comfortable beds, beautiful furniture, and re-purposed antiques. We met many great people at the Kingsley Inn, including Miss Bonnie. A longtime fixture that met us shortly after checking in, helped us with breakfast, and gave us even more history of the inn and Fort Madison. She even told us about a little girl she calls Hildy who likes to visit the guests and some of the workers at the Kingsley. You may never see Hildy, but you may hear her giggling at times. Running up and down the halls and closing the doors. Below is a picture of Miss Bonnie and the short tour of the basement that was once used for a furrier where the old vault is still there. And before that, it was an underground railroad depot hiding slaves fleeing their captures.
Ghost hunting and history lessons can work up quite an appetite. Adjacent to the hotel was a restaurant that calls itself a farm to fork experience. The Atlas Steak and Smokehouse lured us in and kept us there.
The Atlas Smoke & Steakhouse has a huge menu of beers from the Hawkeye State. They call it their “Iowa Tap Takeover”. Naturally we went local and hit up a couple pints. Holly, our exuberant and talented server, encouraged to get the flight of local brews that pair up with the small plates prepared by Chef Scott. We planned on eating the small plates and moving on to another place to keep the gallivant moving. After the first bite, we knew we weren’t moving for quite awhile. Now for our entrees!
Ladies and gentleman meet the Executive Chef, Scott Petty, of the Atlas and some of the hard work he and his kitchen have been putting in. They specialize in all that is great about Wagyu beef. One of the most beautifully marbled cuts of beef you can get anywhere. The Atlas happens to purchase theirs from a produce just 6 miles away from Fort Madison. That’s a fresh steak! We ordered chili with Wagyu and a Wagyu sirloin with a rich Bearnaise sauce and loaded mashers. Did we mention that Holly can be very persuasive? We also ordered her favorite entree, Steak Oscar. A perfect fillet topped with crab meat and Hollandaise sauce. Holly, you know how to pick’em! We ate very well, and hit the streets of Fort Madison. They led us to one of the most unique places you can find anywhere.
And that’s not all there is at Faeth’s! Antiques, local artifacts, wood workings, a bar from the 1930’s worlds fair, and so much more. We were joined by some fun story telling locals. They were proud of all that Faeth’s had and urged us to come back again to see more of this landmark. That’s a big 10-4 on that one! And we got a big tip on where to go for breakfast the next day…
We walked back to our room at the Kingsley Inn and sunk into our bed. While we could see trains passing from our window, we didn’t hear a thing as we dreamed about our next adventure and upcoming breakfast at the Fort Diner!
The iconic Fort Diner was just down the street from the inn and we made ourselves at home at its counter. We both ordered the Mess. Both Monie and I knew we had to have it. You head that right. A Mess of hash browns, peppers, onions, cheese, and sausage. Over easy eggs, with sides of sausage gravy, toast, and lots of coffee. We were surrounded by locals including a gentleman who traveled to Fort Madison, from Providence, RI, to work temporally at a nearby plant. “I fell in love with an Iowa girl and never left!” He said while he finished his breakfast. In the middle of our meal the pie maker, Sue Watson, came in to deliver her homemade pies in a wooden box made by her husband. A classic counter style diner right on the Mississippi with a scrumptious breakfast, and the local pie lady dropping off baked goods with a delivery system you may never see anywhere else. How do we find these places?
We were still in the mood to experience more of the local history and Fort Madison is obviously loaded with history everywhere you go. There were historical landmarks to take in throughout Fort Madison, like the oldest military cemetery west of the Mississippi River, and several placards describing the town’s vibrant past. Across the street from the Kingsley Inn is Old Fort Madison. The old fort does an incredible job bringing the early 1800’s back to life.
The party of JayJay and Monie found complete splendor at every turn during our stay in For Madison. Holly, a trusty server who was born and raised in Lee County and keeps finding reasons to love this town and surround areas. Chef Scott who was raised in Fort Madison and traveled abroad to learn his craft and eventually lured back. A cigar shop that could double as in fully functional museum that welcomes anyone who just wants to visit and tell stories of their own. An old fort with dedicated workers keeping it operating and fulfilling all the tourists with Iowa history. A diner the locals love and keeps the visitors entertained and welcomed. A top notch inn that with a crew that takes pride in the building’s history and making it a must see for anyone who wants to experience river town Americana. I can see why Miss Bonnie feels a connection to the Kingsley. I can see why Chef Scott came back bringing a passion that exudes from him and his food. I can see why Holly has made a life here keep her Lee County roots intact. And I’m not surprised at all that a journeyman from Rhode Island fell head over heals for an Iowa girl and stayed put. Fort Madison gave us so much in just a day and a half and we’re already looking forward to the opportunity to head back.
And now a huge thank you!
Thanks for reading! -Team Goodvin